Review: Quantum and Woody #7

Much like armed race relations, I have a feeling this review of Valiant’s Quantum and Woody #7 may quickly become contentious. I don’t mean it to be that way, but this right here is a comic that gets one side of its shared narrative nature so spot-on it hurts, while the other has become increasingly unforgivable. This issue, while Woody weasels his way out of a nasty case of death by “finding God,” his adopted brother (codename: Quantum) finds himself the prisoner of an anti-government militia of white supremacists led by a familiar face, whose life was soured by a loose-lipped moment in Quantum’s past. This poorly-educated group of well-armed haters is obsessed with two things: sticking it to “The Man,” and ironically enough, the superhero known as Quantum.

As the true colors (so to speak) of each side in this bit of Domestic violence begin to run, our heroes find themselves flanked by some very unexpected allies indeed. In the end, we are left to wonder who will win the inevitable conflagration of idiots that will ensue next issue. Interlaced there between, we see the reemergence of two figures from the book’s inaugural arc in what heralds some undoubtedly interesting future goings-on. This brings me to what Quantum and Woody does absolutely right in its seventh issue.

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record here, but once again James Asmus proves in this issue what made Quantum and Woody the Comic Bastards’ nearly-unanimous “Best Revival of 2013.” Amongst an unwavering wit and infinitely entertaining modern storytelling, I think his greatest achievement in his tenure so far is nailing every single character in this book with his or her own unique voice, whether it’s the hilariously disparate top tier duo, or just some quietly opining slack-jawed yokels.

Now, there may not have been as many straight-up guffaws this time, but the humor innate in this series remains as such, but perhaps more measured as it gears up for a big, balls-out conflict. Speaking of being ballsy, there’s no denying Asmus’ fantastic approach to perspective, not just here, but throughout the entire series, by playing with the notions of morality.

QW_007_COVER_DOYLEI mean, who the hell makes white supremacists endearing, for fuck’s sake!? James Asmus, that’s who! And for some reason, it works, simply because it’s done so goddamn ridiculously, with a cleverness and sense of fun you will not find in other superhero books. He seems unperturbed by social taboos (let alone “norms”) and spares no scrutiny towards any single side of this military-political farce. And it’s great. Like ... really great.

My only problem with this issue (and again, this is written at the risk of sounding redundant) is the art. Maybe the shock of the new has worn off and my forgiveness has since waned, but this issue redeveloped my dislike of Doyle’s style. A couple reviews ago, I said it worked in the context of the story exactly because it didn’t, but now I just see it as a hinderance to the overall enjoyment of the title.

Doyle’s stuff isn’t all bad; in fact it sounds pretty good ... in theory. In my opinion, her art is what might happen if the styles of Becky Cloonan, Mike Walsh and Michael Allred had a kid. Not a bad lineage, right? However, metaphorical genetics being what it is, the combination of these parent parts does not necessarily a pretty baby make.

I admit she can draw a mean Woody (which I don’t mean as innuendo); his facial expressions and her overall approach to his design fits and works well, probably because he is the most warped and “comic” character in the series. However, even understanding that artistic appreciation is most definitely a subjective beast, I don’t get why her art gets a free pass on everything else, especially in this issue.

The guns in Quantum and Woody #7 are harried and cluttered slashes, the vehicles continue to be crumpled heaps, the backgrounds are near non-existent muddles, the action (especially one Quantum-targeted punch) is awkward and clunky, and the positioning of her characters (not to mention the clothes which cover them so ungainly) is stiff and unnatural. I maintain that the only elements Doyle does consistently well are faces, and even those here seem more hurried than usual, even for her.

Look, I get it that, by its own admission, Quantum and Woody is a different kind of superhero comic; hell, that’s half the reason I like it! I also understand why Valiant would want a different visual approach to set this series apart - something similar, perhaps, to what Aja has famously done for Hawkeye, or Samnee is doing for Daredevil. But Doyle’s stuff - while arguably somewhat similar in style - is not nearly as well-honed or engaging, and here completely falls flat.

If anything confirms how much better this book could look with a different, cleaner and more fun, yet aesthetically-nuanced direction, it’s the special glimpse at the end of Tom Fowler’s cover for issue eight. Just imagine this whole thing looking like that again and tell me it wouldn’t be ten times better.

Quantum and Woody is one of my favorite books out there right now, and even though I’m giving it a lower score than I ever have, I will not stop pushing it as a hilarious, razor-witted alternative superhero title, the storytelling and humor of which are nothing short of infectious. Unfortunately, however, those sincere recommendations will come with the caveat that its art, frustratingly, holds it back from true, cohesive greatness.

Score: 3/5

Writer: James Asmus Artist: Ming Doyle Colors: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/8/14