Round 1 Battle 23
Howard the Human
House of M
This battle is brought to you by your own sense of crippling uncertainty.
What this battle brings you is one Howard the Human.
The moniker is a very clever play on the 80s movie Howard the Duck because, why not?
Howard the Human, on the other hand, is a man in grittly drawn world populated with anthropomorphic animals. This is a one-shot, meaning the entire story is told in one issue. That is a tall order for any comic book. Though he spells his name annoyingly, Skottie Young is a very strong storyteller. You can remember him from earlier in this bracket as the writer/artist of Giant Sized Little Marvel.
That was a comic that did very well in the first round, but failed to impress with its second issue. Howard the Human isn’t burdened with a second issue. It tells its entire story in one swing. And it does so beautifully. The fascinating thing about Howard the Human is that he is a Philip Marlowe character, which means he plays a hard-boiled detective who often talks or lucks his way out of a jam. Philip Marlowe is a character popularized by Raymond Chandler novels; the role has been played on the big screen by Humphrey Bogart, James Garner, and my favorite interpretation, Elliot Gould in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye.
This comic leans heavily on its influences. Howard is a private investigator who has some crazy stories to tell. The most remarkable thing about him is how he can maintain an effortless cool in the most diabolically stressful circumstances. This man will stare down the barrel of 8 high powered assault rifles and calmly finish his whisky neat and wax on about his day. I believe people in my great-grandfather’s generation would refer to him as, “a very cool customer.” Not a bad guy to protagonize a story.
The artwork is sketchy, although not unpleasing and certainly true to the story. One of the things that many of the comics in the Battleworld summer series do so well is match storytellers to artists who understand the story the writer is telling. The less-than-straight lines of this comic wobble together the world of a city’s seedy underbelly, of secrets just waiting to be uncovered. This is the world of the detective novel. The artistry brings that to vivid and compelling life.
Its easy to be taken off guard by how “shitty” it looks. But it is shitty in all the right ways. It’s a carefully orchestrated mess. A mess that comes together to tell a story that is tighter in 22 pages than many other comics in this bracket will be able to do in 4, 7, or even 10 issues.
The other comic in this battle is the first issue of House of M, a wildly incoherent mess that barely warrants mentioning.
So back to Howard the Human.
Another thing hats great about this comic is how well in melts into the Marvel Universe without intruding on its carefully constructed identities. It does so in an almost satirical way: it pokes fun at Marvel without dishonoring it. Daredevil makes an appearance as a rodent named Mouse Murdock. It might have been better to make a blind character a mole, but whatever.
When all is said and done with this battle, Howard the Human moves forward, and House of M is soon to be forgotten.
Congratulations Howard the Human! See you in round two!