5 out of 5
Back in the 70s days of actual Howard the Duck frenzy, his premiere issues and appearances were apparently pretty tough to track down, encouraging Marvel to bundle all of those appearances – his Man-Thing drop-in; the subsequent Giant Size shorts – along with a reprint of Howard #1, in their massively oversized Treasury editions, along with a new, full-length tale featuring the Gerber-era Defenders, cutting into his run-for-president storyline taking place in the ongoing. The new story is really just Gerb operating on full, delightful kookiness, with knock-off heroes taking on the Defenders in the hopes of becoming notables instead of forgettables, but it’s all-on energy, with page-filling art from Buscema that looks particularly great blown up to the new size. Steve kinda-sorta sidesteps how Dr. Strange could probably magic Howard back home, but more importantly, the story – both directly and indirectly, with a cameo of a particular webhead – grounds the Duck within the Marvel U, which, a somewhat forced attempt in the first issue aside (though it’s made good by that cameo…), hadn’t really been happening in his own title. Not that he needs to be surrounded by heroes, but I think Howard’s series really took off when Gerb started viewing him as a mainstay and not just a voice for random social musings, and so sending him off on mini-adventures like this one encourages that.
That said, it’s interesting having issue #1 recontextualized as a followup to all of the other reprinted material. It underlines further how HTD, the series, started off in the exact same vein as the character’s prior, short appearances, which were essentially acerbic spins on funny animal business. It’s all really funny and inventive when isolated like this, but I’m definitely glad that Howard started to get some storyline linearity as things went on.
Also includes a funny “interview” with Howard on his presidential run, and (I believe) a new insterstitial piece by Val Mayerik to introduce the Man-Thing material.