Not many comic books feel truly at peace with tackling casual racism, but then, not many comic books are Quantum and Woody #3, which is frankly a shame. In addressing something as random as the oft-pondered, yet seldom-voiced practice of “sounding black,” this issue employs humorous dexterity, unquestionable panache and no small amount of vim, not just to hilarious effect, but also to progress its increasingly intricate and entertaining plot. It even utilizes a particularly illustrative example of said argument using well-loved Thundercat, Panthro, which, as I’m sure you will agree, automatically makes this the best goddamn book you will read this week. Period. See, that’s the first thing that’s so great about this series: the pure, simple inanity of it all. Pitting two vastly different adopted brothers with newly-gifted and fantastic (yet still mysterious) abilities not only against the forces which caused the death of their recently-perished father, but also against each other, Quantum and Woody is, on the surface, the poster child for fun, action-packed comic bookery; but there’s also something more at play here than thinly-veiled penis jokes and tongue-in-cheek references to the quieter corners of race relations. This is simultaneously self-referential, nigh-surrealist superhero pastiche, as much as it is bloody good storytelling.
Quantum and Woody is first and foremost a book of levity, but don’t be fooled; sometimes the class clown actually has a lot to say. It’s true that there’s an easy, breezy innocence that blows alongside the acerbic wit between this wickedly-paired tandem, but unlike in some other books, here it feels natural, organic and yes, familial. Speaking as a brother myself (though not necessarily in the way the black community uses the term), the characters Quantum and Woody definitely share a brotherly rapport that doesn’t feel forced into a gimmicky conceit.
Asmus and Fowler have been able to build true tension between their spotlighted cast members, not only within their volatile exchanges in the present, but by peering ever more deeply into their shared (and, as it turns out in this issue, quite explosive) pasts, and they have done so deftly and without undue narrative jerry-rigging. In fact, it’s in these quiet asides that the book finds its grounding force that keeps it from cantering off, as I’ve said before, into what otherwise could be “spider-clown farce,” which, by the way, is the new name of my nonexistent band.
I also love the knowing nods and not-so-subtle elbows to the ribs that this series employs in the fun and obviously fond way it takes the piss out of itself; or rather, the earlier incarnation of itself, draped as it was in elongated-capes, overly-pouchy accessories and late-90s visual anachronism, which they admittedly begin to shuck in this issue.
So far, this comic has shown that it knows what it is - the reboot of a pretty ridiculous concept in a more modern age, to the point where even the easily-engaged art is something you might find while pouring through a stack of back issues; and before you get your panties in a bunch, I mean that as a compliment.
It’s fun and bright, bristling with Pop (sometimes literally) and excess, but it’s also sweet and even sad. It has the pomp and circumstance of the 90s, but without being vapid or bloated. Proving its commitment to story, this issue also gears up its threat level to a decidedly more glaring hue, not only with the introduction of the hilariously nefarious Edison’s Radical Acquisitions baddie cabal, but also in the worrying changes that our duo is beginning to experience thanks to their fateful encounter with a massive quantum energy accident.
Armed also with a pleasantly unleaded pace that keeps the story moving quickly yet satisfyingly along as its points begin to coalesce, all of these elements combine to make Quantum and Woody #3 an excellent furtherance of an already fantastic series. While the goat on the cover of issue one has yet to appear visually, I’ll be the first to say that this title has already shown that it may very well be Valiant’s “GOAT,” by which, of course, I mean, the Greatest Of All Time.
Writer: James Asmus
Artist: Tom Fowler
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Release Date: 9/4/13