You know what? Fuck it, it’s time somebody said this: Quantum and Woody is the most unapologetically entertaining book in the market today. Not just from Valiant. Not even just in the industry outside the Big Two. The whole. Fucking. Thing. Put simply - and this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s peeked in on my ongoing coverage of this title - I have not had this much fun with comics in a very long time. I may have said this before, but James Asmus and the thankfully returning Tom Fowler (for this issue) do an unparalleled job here of putting the funny back in funny books, while at the same time managing to inject a solid dose of actual emotion through a harrowing adventure filled with truly shocking reveals.
Not to oversell it any more than I need to, but this book seriously does have something for everyone while staying light and teasing its readers to want more, and it does so through what many see as an immediately dismissible comic book “convention,” if you’ll pardon the pun.
As the numbering ever-so-subtly implies, this is Quantum and Woody’s zero issue; an inevitability for most comic books and still something of a mildly-contested topic in the community. I personally think contemporary zero issues have bucked their erstwhile trend of simply being classified as “filler,” and I personally like to think of them as a sort of extended end credits sequence, tying in bits of the story you’ve just experienced and maybe proffering a few appetite-whetting narrative morsels in the form of shifty reveals. In that regard, Quantum and Woody: Goat #0 doesn’t deviate from type, but sweet merciful pancakes, does it party-up that dynamic!
The plot this issue - which again is quietly nodded-to in the title - follows the secret origins of the formerly inscrutable Vincent Van Goat, and it’s the most fun you can have with a story about farmyard animals without the awkward sideways glances from concerned loved ones.
In my mind, in fact, this issue supersedes previously-lauded goat-based stories (i.e., the Three Billy Goats Gruff or the Dark Tales of the Goat-Headed Demon Lord Baphomet, respectively) and unless you’re an amoral heathen, profoundly illiterate or a registered sex offender, you’re probably going to have an absolute blast with this book. All the rest of you sinners need Jesus.
Set “BAAACK in the day” on a farm in Kansas, we see a young Vincent fall deeply in love with a very special, very well-known sheep by the name of Dolly, whom you may recall as the godless abomination who proved cloning possible. What follows as Vincent embarks on his quest for illicit animal husbandry is a great montage of the fantastic voyage that takes him through multifaceted misadventure.
These include, but are not limited to, scoring field goals, saving children from burning buildings, besting Big Foot in presumably mortal combat and, as you might expect, rousting a group of Lucha Libre street-toughs affectionately dubbed “La Ganga Figura Cuatro,” which, when translated from the original Esperanto, means “The Figure Four Gang,” and is thus excellent.
Thereafter, Vincent collides with much younger versions of the book’s titular heroes (at the “Thundermoist Summer ScienceSlam,” naturally), as well as their then still-living father, just in time to take part in an experiment gone terribly awry, which ends up ... well, you’re gonna have to read it to see the hijinks that result.
Suffice it to say that this book is packed to the gills (and other descriptive goat parts) with the kind of jocularity we’ve all come to expect from Quantum and Woody. The dialogue from each of the characters (none of which I’ll recount here so as not to spoil any more) is, as ever, sharp and hilarious; in fact, I don’t think there’s one page of this book that won’t at very least elicit a titter.
Along with the overt gags, though, Asmus and company use the otherwise oft-ignored perimeter of the “story proper” to better flavor its whole. The transitory “bumper” panels of white text on black background, for example, are fantastically employed against the backdrop of story. Also, I’m not sure whose idea it was to sneak in a reference to Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, but as a possible meta-commentary on the norm of a hero’s quest literally being rent and devoured, that was a nice little touch.
In all, by again turning a lens at least partially on his universe, the team here has allowed the Quantum and Woody world to live and breathe, yes, but also to laugh and cry. Of course, as we have seen recently, Asmus wouldn’t be able to achieve the depth of that emotional response without a partner in crime.
Goddamn was it a treat to see Tom Fowler back on this book; i.e., where he should be. Like Asmus, he proves very handy at being able to juggle several feels at once, all through an instantly engaging flexible aesthetic. In short, his art fits perfectly with the story here, and indeed lays the foundation for another narrative wrinkle.
So yeah, I loved Quantum and Woody: Goat #0 ... shocker, I know. I wouldn’t say this is the best place to jump onto this series (which may throw some people off, given that’s another presumed function of the zero issue), but thanks to the twist ending that I, for one, never saw coming, you definitely need to read it going forward.
Story: James Asmus & Tom Fowler Writer: James Asmus Artist: Tom Fowler Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: 3.99 Release Date: 3/5/14