I don’t mean to make this a “thing,” but I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about opening Quantum and Woody #5. Is that because the first arc was so successful that I didn’t think its sophomore push would be able to follow it up adequately? Negative! Is it because I knew I would feel bad about laughing at jokes poking fun at casual racism and questionably-advised sexual behavior? Dude ... that shit’s my bread and butter! No, the real reason I was a bit dubious is this book’s artistic shift from the well-matched, jaunty visual hootenanny that is Tom Fowler to the, in my opinion, much more prosaic and stiff work of Ming Doyle, whose stuff has, in the past, really gotten my goat (do I really need to say pun intended?).
However, much to my surprise, in the fifth issue of what I have before called one of the most purely entertaining comic books on the market today, Ming Doyle has managed to make a believer out of me. In fact, after its reading, I think I’m all aboard this new Ming Dynasty, which is a joke I’m sure she’s never heard before ... ever.
In all seriousness, this new beginning in the lives of our reluctant and accidental disastrous duo sees the two brothers and their new “family,” which now consists of a murderous goat (who is here given a fantastically pun-rich name) and a clone of their arch nemesis (The Crone), trying to reach some sense of normalcy. This, of course, is impossible, but my god what a fantastically ludicrous theater of the absurd this book continues to be!
As both Quantum and Woody trade jibes about the former’s inability to lighten up and the likelihood of the latter’s growth from prepubescence to maturity, the book weaves us through a story riddled with uninvited bubble-baths, clever and machine gun-fast dialogue rich with knowing nods, superhero/slacker mix-ups, well-met hipster insulting, back-alley supervillainy, shit-loads of clone-baked pancakes and a new direction that will undoubtedly see Q&W pushed into some very compromising positions by a good ol’ boy named Magnum.
The only real gripe I have with the book - and it’s a relatively small one - is this issue’s use of flashbacks, which have been employed to puncture the otherwise lighthearted story with familial depth, previously focusing on the boys’ relationship with their now-deceased father. This time, it looks back on the military life of Eric (Quantum), and while it’s definitely setting up some character-building, this sort of preface didn’t do much for me other than to confirm what we already knew about his past. Also, the sepia tonality here made the fairly racially-charged scene feel vague and ill-defined in an otherwise beautifully colored book. Still, if the successful use of this flashback device in previous issues is any indication, it’s a solid bet that this will develop into something interesting.
Speaking of this issue’s art, I still think Doyle’s stuff is rigid and awkward, with backgrounds that are rough and styled to be marginal and simplistic, but for some reason - in a way I honestly thought impossible - it works really well here. Logically speaking, combining that aesthetic with a story that flows with liquid-witted lyrical hilarity should be incongruous. It shouldn’t work at all, but in a way that echoes the curious mixture of our titular heroes, I think that’s exactly why it does.
This is how I see it: the art here is the straight man to the lunacy of the story - the sweet and sour pairing of which you can see in the ridiculously fun and funny dream sequence at the book’s start - and set within that dichotomy, Quantum and Woody promises to introduce a new dynamic to its storytelling, one that plays perhaps more thematically off of the contradictory nature of its story and main characters. In short, I stand corrected, and I honestly think Doyle’s work is the best next direction for this series, mostly because it isn’t. Does that make sense?
Quantum and Woody #5 is a new yet comfortable step in this fantastic Valiant series. It still enjoys its uniquely comedic voice and now boasts an artistic direction that plays well within the book’s antithetical nature. Again, I admit that I was worried that this new creative team wouldn’t match that which made it one of my favorite books of the moment, but I’ll be damned if I’ve never been so happy to have been so wrong.
Writer: James Asmus Artist: Ming Doyle Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: 3.99 Release Date: 11/6/13