Squirrel Girl, Howard the Duck (and Prez?) lead new crop of humor comics
Despite my complaints last time about the darkness permeating comics, Marvel and DC are putting out a surprising number of genuinely funny books, though how long they’ll last has yet to be determined.
The best is Marvel’s “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.” The character debuted in the early ’90s in a “Marvel Super-Heroes” anthology comic. Auditioning to become Iron Man’s sidekick, she wound up helping the armored Avenger defeat none other than Dr. Doom.
Over the years, she’s been a member of the Great Lakes Avengers and almost made it onto the actual Avengers, serving as the nanny to the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.
Somewhat surprisingly, Marvel gave Squirrel Girl her own ongoing title earlier this year. It finds the title character, aka Doreen Green, starting college and taking on villains like Kraven the Hunter and Whiplash, before graduating to the Devourer of Worlds himself, Galactus.
Not only are the dialogue by Ryan North and cartoony art by Erica Henderson terrific, but almost every page contains hilarious notes or commentaries. When Squirrel Girl and Galactus are discussing Thanos, the tiny type along the bottom of the page reads: “If you see him, tell him I said he’s so uncool that he’s not just a square … he’s a cosmic cube.”
It was recently announced the title is returning with a new #1 after the current “Secret Wars” event.
The same goes for “Howard the Duck.” Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones have recast Howard – who you may try to forget from the 1987 movie that did not do the original comic justice – as a private detective. The new series has maintained the off-kilter sense of humor of Steve Gerber’s seminal 1970s volume and seen Howard take on the Black Cat, team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and get robbed by Spider-Man’s Aunt May.
Marvel’s also given the Guardians’ Groot his own solo series, courtesy of writer Jeff Loveness and artist Brian Kessinger. Before being separated from teammate Rocket – the only one who can translate the varied meanings of Groot’s three-word vocabulary – the duo engage in some space hitchhiking, including one of the funniest, and oh so wrong, parodies of Superman’s origin you’ll ever see.
DC is trying to lighten things up too, giving characters like Bizarro and Bat-Mite their own series. Despite being written by Dan Jurgens, with art by Corin Howell, the first “Bat-Mite” issue falls a little flat, with the perennially meddling Batman fan and mega-powerful Fifth-Dimensional imp stumbling through the beginnings of a rather pedestrian adventure.
DC’s also brought back another oddball concept I’ve written about here before, with a new “Prez” series. This time the 19-year-old commander-in-chief is a fast food worker who gets a bunch of Twitter votes for the White House after a video of her hair getting caught in the grill goes viral.
The setup and social commentary seem promising, but the first issue – written by Mark Russell with art by Ben Caldwell – only starts to lay the groundwork. It’s kind of ironic that in an era when the cheapest comics are $2.99, it often takes multiple issues to tell a story and hook readers. Back in the “olden days” with 10- or even 75-cent cover prices, you could routinely get a satisfying single issue, even if it was in a multi-part storyline.
Recently, the length of the “Prez” series was reduced from 12 to six issues.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group,” www.supportgroupcomic.com