Graphic Novel Friday: Finding Funny in the Funny Books

Superheroism is serious business; see any number of increasingly grim, grimacing summer blockbusters for proof of how dire it is to fight crime while wearing a cape and tights. But it doesn’t have to be, especially recently in the Marvel universe, where jokes and levity abound. Below are three(ish) picks for easy-to-pick-up and quick-to-laugh comics that make any dreary morning commute all the brighter. 

Hellcat_cover1 Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat! Vol 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams: Hellcat! A fearsome-sounding alter ego wrapped around a hero who…needs room and board? Patsy Walker’s days of fighting crime are not a lively as they used to be, so she settles for part-time work in the law offices of She-Hulk. But there is rent to be paid, so Patsy seeks a roommate and a retail gig. Sounds mundane, right? And that’s what makes it so funny—well, that and the glib, punchy script by Kate Leth and the chameleonic stylings of Brittney Williams, who shifts Walker’s portrayal from fierce to Manga-esque exasperation. As a chipper Patsy battles terrors from her publishing past, she is ever endearing, making this a binge read for binge-watching Kimmy Schmidt fans.

Howard the Duck Vol. 0: What the Duck? and Vol. 1: Duck Hunt by Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones and Veronica Fish: Howard the Duck is an anthropomorphic jerk who is stranded on planet Earth and is a terrible detective and he wears khaki pants and says “Wauugghhh!” a lot when he is upset, which is pretty much all the time, but he also has a duck-sized heart of gold and he may be the hero we both need and deserve, and is also the best texting friend Spider-Man ever had. Whew! No kidding, Howard faces Galactus, rides the Silver Surfer’s surfboard, and teams up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Aunt May, and Squirrel-Girl on separate occasions. Also, he is on a texting-only BFF basis with Spider-Man. Did I mention that?

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars by Cullen Bunn, Mateo Lolli, and Jacopo Camagni: Superhero comics for you: there are not one but two events in Marvel’s history called “Secret Wars,” and they are mostly unrelated. There is also a Secret Wars II, but we should never speak of that. Then there is this comic, titled Secret Secret Wars, in which Deadpool reveals he played a pivotal role in the first Secret Wars book, back in the 1980s, only now no one remembers he was there. His role and the mystery behind the collective mind-wipe are all played for nerdy laughs (and how I laughed), but what is inspired is how closely Bunn hews to the original book and simply drops Deadpool into preexisting dialogue and situations. Newbies needn’t fret, as Marvel reprints the original Secret Wars #1 issue in the back so readers can compare all the small and Hulk-sized ways that Deadpool wreaks havoc (Havok?) in Marvel universe continuity.

What about you, GNF readers? What superhero books give you the biggest laughs, new or old?

--Alex


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