Review: Quantum & Woody #6

Recently, a legendary comics creator come out with some strong words about the superhero genre; words like “emotionally subnormal” and “alarming.” Then he mentioned something about “addiction” and “12-year-old boys.” Look, I’m not sure, I wasn’t really paying attention, and I’m not here to judge. The point is that in response to these contentious comments, I noticed not a small amount of people on Twitter agreeing with the reclusive wizard that perhaps the superhero genre does indeed suffer from a dearth of well-written or engaging stories.

Well, I may not yet have the lauded credibility of an occultist ceremonial magician, but I must argue the point that the well of worthy superhero stories has run dry. If they believe that, then these folks clearly aren’t supping from the bountiful superheroical cup that is Valiant Comics, nor indeed looking upon its shining star: Quantum and Woody.

In this, its sixth showing, the misadventures of the series’ nominal brotherly duo (who were quite suddenly bequeathed energy manipulation powers while attempting to solve their father’s murder) continue unabated, with Eric (Quantum) taking up what seems to be his dream job in protecting America domestically. As it turns out, though, his mission may just make him the second goat in this book ... scapegoat, that is. (nailed it)

Meanwhile, Eric’s brother Woody (Woody) reminds his for-once optimistic adoptive sibling that should they part for more than 24 hours, they will both “cease to be.” This, of course, leads the two into another team-up where hijinx inevitably ensue. What hijinx, you ask? Oh, just those that necessarily come with the government-sanctioned, militarized shutdown of a well-armed Montana-based separatist militia, which Quantum is tasked with eliminating in the name of these United States and, of course, Jesus Christ.

QW_006_COVER_CRAINIf it’s one thing this issue proves, it’s that James Asmus is one of the cleverest, most entertaining writers in comics today. Not just anyone can so proficiently wield topics like politics, race relations and religion with such gleeful abandon, but in Q&W #6 (and every issue that came before it) Asmus pulls it of nicely. At the same time, almost every exchange of dialogue in this issue is a goddamn hoot, whether it’s the inuendo-ridden obliviousness of Woody, the ridiculous religiosity of Magnum, the innocent ill-intent of the appropriately-named Sixty-Nine or simply the hilarious quippage from this book’s periphery chorus.

Speaking of the margins, you’d be missing out large if you skip over Asmus’ pithy, punny mid-book chapter titles and scene caption headings; he clearly enjoys using every piece of the proverbial comic book buffalo, which of course makes the whole meal that much more full-bodied.

Saying that, this issue isn’t perfect. The flashback portions of Q&W are where most of the heart in this story resides, showcasing the deeper experiences that make these characters into the fictional people they are today. The one-page treatment Asmus and Doyle give this issue isn’t bad, but at the risk of jumping to conclusions, it is starting to feel “after-school special-y,” and I’m not sure how its reveal fits into the overall story of this arc.

As for art ... well, first of all, holy shit does that cover by Clayton Crain and Kalman Andrasofszky kick ass! Secondly, in her run with this book so far, interior artist Ming Doyle’s figure work, while remaining pretty wooden when action is afoot, is much more palatable for me than it has been in the past. I think a lot of that has to do with Jordie Bellaire’s colors, which pop with a noticeably brighter hue than in their drab collaboration in Mara. The only time they don’t is in the flashback scene, which, as I mentioned, is the only point where the book pales for me.

I also have a problem with Doyle’s backgrounds. Not only are they frustratingly sparse in a book where the author has done a great job in giving his “extras” a voice, but everything (especially the cars, as random a thing as that is to point out) has this rough, made-from-playdough look to it that has prevented me from enjoying her stuff as much as seemingly everyone else in the world. Sure, this allows the reader to focus more on what’s happening in the foreground, where admittedly Doyle’s facial expressions delight, but it also spoils the overall aesthetic of the book. Her use of perspective, too, is all kinds of goofy, but in a series like Quantum and Woody, where pretty much everything is goofy, that at least doesn’t really bother me as much.

In the end, Quantum and Woody #6 offers a great opportunity to embrace the emotionally subnormal 12-year-old boy inside you! Wait. Let’s try this another way...

Don’t listen to the nay-saying sorcerers and their pessimistic ilk; unlike magic, great superhero comic books do exist. You just have to expand your preconceived notions and know where to look. Quantum and Woody may not be what you expect, but it just might be the riotously quick-witted, well-written atypical series you need to relight your superhero fire, and I personally believe it to be the jewel in Valiant’s hero-hewn crown.

Score: 4/5

Writer: James Asmus Artist: Ming Doyle Colors: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/4/13