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Revived In A World He Never Made...

Howard The Duck #1
writer: Ty Templeton
penciller: Juan Bobillo

Granted, Howard stands as one of those characters that nobody can quite understand how they got popular in the first place. Amidst the strange, quasi-philosophical horrors of the swamp, a cigar-chomping duck must have just seemed like an, "oh, wow, yeah" moment. Maybe there was just something in the water supply when I was ten.

It also seems odd that this week Marvel delivers a one-two punch or kiss to Steve Gerber, creator of Howard and the even more cultish Omega the Unknown, reviving both in mini-series that will surely cause more controversy among, well, the cultishly minded comics fans.

Being part of the Howard cult has always been difficult, as some writers and artists have gotten a fair enough chunk of what makes Howard tick, but more often than not (George Lucas), they don't get it at all. It looks like Ty Templeton and Juan Bobillo at least get part of it.

For years, the rumor has been that Howard's appearance ruffled some feathers at Disney, memorably causing Howard to have to wear pants. Later Marvel's art department altered his appearance some, making him rounder but no less Donald-like. When Steve Gerber came back for Howard's appearance in the MAX line, he mocked the issue by having Howard become a rat, among other animals. The re-design isn't over, as Bobillo's take on Howard may be the most controversial aspect of this revival.

(People are more upset about this than Howard's teaming up with Artie and Leech in Daydreamers.)

So, is this purposely moving further away from looking like Donald, or is it just Bobillo's idiosyncratic style? Look closely, and you'll notice that his version of Man-Thing looks more like a pissed-off fern than the huge muck monster we're used to seeing. More likely, it's Bobillo following something about Templeton's script - Howard is a cranky, middle-aged tired resident of Cleveland that happens to be a duck. Right or wrong, this isn't quite Howard; it's Harvey Pekar with feathers and a bill.

While Templeton has the cranky down pat and does portray Howard as genuinely caring for Bev, he's also missed the grudging sweetness that Gerber gave Howard. Once upon a time, the duck had a decent-sized supporting cast of oddballs that found him almost charming. Instead here, he grouses and gets his feathers ruffled a lot.

The personality may only be half-right, but at least Templeton and Bobillo capture the quirk. Facing down fraternal twin scientists/would-be duck hunters the Barrel Brothers, Howard has a fairly typical adventure. It's missing a satirical edge, but it's entertaining enough. The real set-up comes at the end as Templeton takes a shot at a Marvel mainstay that feels just like the old book.

It's a somewhat disappointing first issue, at least for Howard fans (and I can't review from any other perspective), but Templeton is a strong enough writer that may pull off a better second issue. We'll see about the Bobillo art; he's interesting, but may not really be the right guy for the job.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw


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