4 out of 5
For my intents and purposes, these three issues are essentially the end of Gerber’s run on the first volume of Howard the Duck. He remained for a couple of further issues, but they’re of a filler variety, and with co-plotters and different artists, and so one can suspect he knew he was getting the boot by that point. (Yes, he was perpetually late with scripts, but it’s interesting that the book ended soon after he left anyway…)
But issues 27 through 29 are a fitting sorta-kinda-conclusion anyway, re-positing Howard in the Marvel Universe – or Steve’s fiddled-with corner of it – by pitting him against the Circus of Crime, and putting a cap on the series long ups-and-downs of Howard’s / Steve’s ‘what’s a duck ta’ do?’ monologues by having Howard conclude: get angry. It’s wonderfully ironic, and all sorts of fitting, that the character who kept seeking to shirk responsibilities of typical heroes and / or asking for people to step up and speak up boils it all down to just needing to get pissed off and fight someone. And then he flits the attention-seekers away – represented here by a rich hostess named Iris, who takes the cruise-returning Paul under her wing as a portraiture artist – with a final panel dismissal. You got what you wanted, finally, he relents. It’s a pretty brilliant wrap-up.
And while Beverly / Bong’s storyline gets some hints of where Steve might’ve taken it, he also caps that with a rather subversive turnaround from the norm: Bev is kinda happy with Bong.
There are some things here that sidle a little oddly into things: that Bev’s happiness seems to hinge on being forced to perform dances for Bong, as long as she’s applauded for it, and Winda, having returned with Paul, is left alone and “attacked” by a gang at one point, although to me it seems like the attack would have had a more violent and sexual connotation in a non-Marvel book. It’s very unclear what Steve wanted to do with these notes, and if they were offhand, that might be more troubling.
But I can’t judge too harshly, since we didn’t get the chance to see what would have been under Gerber.
Colan and Janson are back in full force in these issues, so we also go out on a high visual note.