Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones have, over their run on Howard the Duck, delivered some genuinely hilarious and bizarre moments. Aunt May has stuffed a gun in Howard’s face. He’s been in jail with Rocket Raccoon. But none, perhaps, more strange than this issue, featuring special guest star Lea Thompson.
Thompson, of course, was the star of the infamous movie based on Howie, and in Howard the Duck #9 (Marvel) Zdarsky and Quinones use that as the jumping-off point for a plot that’s weird even by this book’s standards. This issue features Anne Geddes parodies with babies dressed like superheroes, aliens looking for their SAG card, and a sendup of one of the X-Men’s silliest, most annoying villains. It could all go off the rails in a staggering number of ways as the comic layers on the absurdity and metahumor, but Zdarsky keeps a steady hand and keeps the characters front and center. Zdarsky’s affection for the material helps keep the book funny; he may be gently teasing, but he’s never sneering.
Quinones, meanwhile, delivers some of the funniest work he’s done on Howard, which is a fairly high bar for a book that featured a “Dance” Infinity Gem. Quinones spins out some of Zdarsky’s weirder ideas into deeply funny stuff. The baby portraits alone, a combination of continuity gag and nerd parody, is worth the price of admission. Howard the Duck is undeniably strange, but underneath the weirdness, there’s a generosity and warmth of spirit that makes Howard more human than the duck would admit.
Jupiter’s Legacy 2 #2, Image Comics
Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s meditation on superheroes taking control of the world continues, this time with a book where Millar deftly steps aside and lets Quitely run the show. The book is mostly a superhero battle that lets Quitely’s imagination run riot with cutaway shot, fantasy worlds, and all sorts of visual fireworks. You almost wish each panel were poster-sized so you could appreciate all the work that went into it. The book is still fascinating as a story, but you also won’t find a better artist’s showcase this week.
Detective Comics #937, DC Comics
James Tynion IV finally has an answer to a question that has bugged any Batman fan for a long time: Why hasn’t the U.S. government just started training its soldiers to Batman’s standards? Tynion thoroughly explores his concept and shows why Batman would object, all while giving his team of Bat-sidekicks something to do. The art team, with Alvaro Martinez on pencils, Raul Fernandez on inks, and Brad Anderson as colorist, have a smooth, clean style that uses layout to pack in a ton of information and give the book a compulsively readable flow. Turning Detective into a team book is a smart decision and each issue that comes out just reinforces how smart.
Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens#1, Dark Horse/IDW
John Layman and Chris Mooneyham give us the ’80s mashup that really should have happened decades ago. Layman, who’s written Aliens books before, nails the tone of Judge Dredd right down to the ridiculous pop culture jokes, while Mooneyham, an experienced artist, offers sketchy lines and sharp edges that give the book a pleasing retro feel. None of it is overly serious but all of it is hilarious, which is exactly what a crossover like this needs.
Mechanism #1, Image Comics
Raffaele Ienco delivers some gorgeous art in an alien invasion story that doesn’t quite come into focus. Still Ienco’s plot is intriguing, and his art and layouts pull you along, and the many, many plot threads are interesting to say the least. Image’s new SF book could go any number of directions, and it’ll be fun to see which it chooses.
Cryptocracy #2, Dark Horse: Van Jensen and Pete Woods continue their twist on the conspiracy thriller
Future Quest #3, DC Comics: Jeff Parker tells the backstory of a few of Hanna Barbera’s action heroes in this issue, and with an art team that includes Steve Rude and Aaron Lopresti, it feels like the cartoons, but a lot better.
Archie #10, Archie : Archie, the human tornado, finally manages to screw something major up. Once again, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples manage to inject real emotion into a classic Archie plotline, and it’s a spectacular read.
Adventure Time Comics #1, BOOM!: Boom! premieres an anthology comic that manages to hit the tone of the show, with some delightful humor. If you’re a fan, or have a kid that’s a fan, it’s ideal.
4001 AD #3, Valiant: Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain approach the beginning of the end of their cyberpunk epic, starring reinvented Valiant characters.
This Week’s Collected Editions:
Past Aways: Face Down in the Timestream, Dark Horse (Softcover, $20): Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins affectionately satirize the tropes of two-fisted Silver Age adventure comics in a giddy romp of a book.
Machine Man: The Complete Kirby and Ditko Collection (Hardcover, $40): One of Marvel’s oddest late ’70s/early ’80s comics, about a war machine with what might just be a soul, gets a complete collection.
Wild’s End: The Enemy Within, BOOM! Studios (Softcover, $20): Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard mash up The Wind in the Willows and The War of the Worlds in an unnerving Victorian thriller.