Howard the Duck #5

Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones' "Howard the Duck" #5 (and the "Secret Wars" event) brings about the finale of this era of waterfowl fiction. This issue takes itself only slightly more seriously than the previous four, giving Howard a chance to save the world alongside a collection of some of the greatest (and most recognizable) heroes in Marvel Comics today.

Quinones draws all sorts of fun into the story, from comical facial expressions to simply silly ideas, like Spider-Man hugging Johnny Storm at the end of the battle. Howard is definitely the star of the issue, but Quinones treats every character with equal levels of detail. This might be the closest Howard the Duck actually gets to an event saga, and it's all complete in this issue, with everything from giant fanged flower beasts to Howard executing a tuck and roll in the middle of the action.

Paolo and Joe Rivera are a strong one-two combo inking Quinones, giving "Howard the Duck" #5 strong lines to set up colorist Rico Renzi for all sorts of zany hues and vibrant color work. Renzi employs some gradients and blends, but mostly follows Quinones' lead and simply colors this book like a wacky comic adventure filled with spandex-clad heroes should be. Letterer Travis Lanham keeps the dialogue clean and rolling, with conversational word balloons stacking atop one another, providing a visual representation of actual conversation rhythm. Add in all of the Editor's Notes, and Lanham is to be applauded for keeping Quinones' art as clean as possible.

Zdarsky bounces Howard off a number of heroes, from Spider-Man to the all-new Captain America, and drops a litany of Editor's Note boxes throughout the issue that pack almost as many laughs as the actual interactions. The writer keeps the issue light and entertaining and even includes in a message about acceptance, giving Howard a whole lot of loveable personality in the process. Zdarsky provides a bit of background to Tara Tam, Howard's galpal, and masterfully connects her into the grander history of the Marvel Universe along the way.

"Howard the Duck" #5 isn't history-changing comics; however, it's a fun, enjoyable adventure featuring Marvel's favorite fowl. As the story plays out, Zdarsky, Quinones, the Riveras, Renzi and Lanham give the readers plenty of hooks to grab onto, promising a wacky adventure and delivering on those promises. The final page of the issue gets a bit existential while appraising readers of Howard's future but, like the rest of the issue, it has fun doing so. Howard the Duck isn't going away; he's just taking a little break, but the five issues of this series and this issue in particular make for a nice refuge until more Howard tales become available.

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