There’s a thousand stories in New Quack City. This is one of them.
And only one of them, as this issue stands as a stand-alone issue. We got a lot of the typical “noir” tropes for a hard-boiled (sorry) detective like Howard, full of world-weary detectives, trigger-happy gangs, wily crime bosses, and sniveling snitches. Oh, yeah. And monkey ninjas.
I expected the comic to switch Howard the Duck’s status quo around— instead of being a duck in a human’s world, he’d be a human in a duck’s world. After all, everyone loves a great Carl Bark’s duck story, and I don’t think we’ve really seen Howard’s world ever before. Why not have Dr. Doom’s Battleworld bring us a glimpse? But this comicbook is less DuckTales and more Zootopia. So we don’t get Iron Duck or Spider-Beak the Web-Footed Wonder, but we do get, well, the Lizard, Vulture, the Black Cat, among others. Which, hey, is still pretty fun.
The “joke” of the book is in the title, then, and also shows up in Howard’s caricature. He’s a bushy-haired blonde with a 70s’ cop ‘stache and sideburns, at home in the typical brown waistcoat and jacket. With Jim Mahfood on art, it’s further pushed into zany, signature-style edginess and angular, vibrant simplicity. I would point out, however, that a hallmark of Howard’s depiction, especially in his original appearances, was the weird juxtaposition, visually, of a cartoony duck in a world of naturally illustrated people. In his most recent series, drawn by Joe Quinones, that distinction is somewhat lost as Howard the Duck’s design isn’t that far off from the graphically and more simplistic design of the people and environment. So, with Mahfood’s kinetic frenzy, Howard as a human doesn’t stand out at all. How out-of-place can Howard truly be if blends in so seamlessly with everything around him?
The rest of the book doesn’t seem that interested in one-liners or verbal humor to the same extent as his most recent series. Once the gimmick is in place, that’s pretty much about it. Some of the twists rely on the visuals, such as a great vicious-looking Vulture and an imposing gorilla Kingpin, with a few on the more verbal/situational, like Daredevil being a blind mouse (because, of course) or Peter Possum (should that be Parker?) being a key to the mystery (because, of COURSE).
While I enjoyed the book, I’m glad it was only for a short moment. The art is very kinetic, and while I can appreciate what it lends to the energy and tone of the story, it would be too overwhelming for me, personally, in a larger dose. Even the panels themselves are sketchy and skewed, more of that zigzag vibrancy. It helps break the story from the very noir-ish tradition that it is a part of, so I wonder how the story would have worked if it stuck with that for the art, such as something more Mignolia-like. Maybe we would criticize it for playing it too close to the vest, being what we expect. But without it, the whole thing comes across as a side-note or afterthought to something more substantial.
A pretty nice comic all around. Not a place to find a bunch of laugh-out-loud one-liners, but it’s a fun premise in a quirky world, aided by a hyper-kinetic and totally exaggerated Mahfood-y art style. It’s rare we get a stand-alone story that works so well, although the story itself doesn’t have much do say beyond the gimmick of the title. Since it’s a done-in-one, it’s a pleasant enough snack with a healthy dollop of noir.