“Howard the Duck” #2’s team-up with Rocket Raccoon and the Guardians is a real riot. Joe Quinones and Joe Rivera draw bold, energetic scenes with plenty of Easter eggs to grin over, and Chip Zdarsky gives Howard a mouthy gumption that makes any situation funny. “Howard the Duck” #2 isn’t as hilarious as its predecessor, but it’s one heck of a humor comic.
In this issue, Howard and Rocket Raccoon plot their escape from the Collector; predictably, it all ends in running, punching and shooting. Rather than cluttering or exaggerating the action, Quinones and Rivera hone in on the basic zaniness of the premise and keep their panels clear, clean and effortlessly readable. They also bring an unexpected restraint to the characters’ movement. While Howard’s Donald-Duck rage face is a perfect match for his signature “Wauugh!,” the rest of his body moves without the same hyperbole. Rivera also utilizes thicker inking to give the characters their solidity. As a result, this art is just a joy to follow. The reader barely does any work.
It’s also fun to see the creative team take full advantage of the space prison setting to get creative with character design. From the “blue drug addict” to the lizard guards, the Collector’s collection is full of well-drawn weirdos.
Rico Renzi’s coloring is bold and stylish. These pages are cheery kaleidoscopes, with purple and orange backgrounds and characters in every color. As with the characters’ body language, it’s the straightforwardness that makes everything work. Rather than shading the room, Renzi colors these characters in simple, strong shades just as they are — green-skinned, outrageously outfitted and slinging multi-colored weapons. His work adds so much to this book’s unique look and feel.
Overall, the humor of “Howard the Duck” #2 lies less in its madcap scenarios and more in its opinionated protagonist. Zdarsky’s script is full of incongruous, oddball observations like calling a guard’s weapon “sexy” or pointing out the absurdity of the Collectors’ methods. In addition, the series has already gone self-referential, pointing back to Spider-Man’s despair from issue #1 and recycling jokes from the first pages at the end of the issue. Since so much of the humor comes from Howard’s observations, the reader is already “in on the joke” anyway, so I like that Zdarsky takes that to its full conclusion. (All of this aside, the ending of this issue goes full-on madcap crazy, and it has me so pumped for issue #3.)
Zdarsky also incorporates some surprising, effective heart. When Howard’s comic anger at the world shows its underbelly of sadness, the dialogue is not only affecting, but it feels like a logical extension of what the reader already knows about Howard. The series’ humor will carry it far, but it’s smart to ground the reader in an emotional arc as well.
Humor comics are no easy task, but the creative team on “Howard the Duck” defies the odds. The first two issues have already handled a heist and a prison break, and I can’t wait to see what’s up next.