Review: Valiant-Sized Quantum & Woody

I should preface this review with the caveat that I am an unabashed Quantum and Woody fan. I should qualify that further by saying I mean the NEW Quantum and Woody, because that old stuff is ... not my cuppa. So, I was excited to see that its publisher would be releasing a “Valiant-Sized” issue of this book. At the same time, I was also trepidatious, because what I enjoy about the series is writer James Asmus’ balance of levity and feels. Most of this issue, however, is helmed by a new creative team. But I’m happy to report, that while making its own mark, this book - which collects three short stories - is par excellence for what has become one of the industry’s very best modern superhero books. The first part and bulk of this issue, which should’ve been called “Giant Sized Woody,” (and not just because I have the maturity of a seven year old), consists of our two would-be gallants teaming up with their most recent archenemy, Thomas Edison, to save the world from asteroidy destruction.

If that doesn’t do enough to tickle your comic pickle, the boys also verbally joust with a quasi-incorporeal and cartoonishly anti-Semitic Iranian nuclear scientist, and pull a Weekend at Bernie’s with a North Korean super-heroine, whose nominal anagram, R.V.G.F.C.N., I couldn’t stop reading as “Rug Fuckin’,” regardless of whether or not that was its authorial intent. And that’s only a fraction of what happens in this one-shot juggernaut, with its pan-dimensional, disaster movie plot; and maybe I’m just a huge mark for these characters, but I loved it.

Siedell, to my complete lack of surprise, nails the fun, but at times honestly sensitive tone established early on by Asmus in the ongoing title’s relaunch. The first story’s plot isn’t especially revolutionary, mind you, and literally misses the mark in the end, but there’s so much engaging whimsy here, it’s easy to overlook its more nonsensical points in favor of its innocently fun reading experience.

I do have to note, however, that while being unnervingly hilarious, the Iranian doctor’s stereotypical anti-Semitism is a dangerous brush against casual racism, which I’m not entirely sure was necessary, especially as “Dr. Emwa Fariq” is - as far as I can tell - completely fictional. If this was an historic, individually-specific trait (like, if it was making fun of Ahmadinejad or something), they might get away with it; but without that, this commentary seems a little too on-the-nose.

Perhaps ironically, the biggest strength in this book is actually Siedell’s characterization, especially of Woody. While I meant it as a thinly-veiled penis joke earlier, “Giant-Sized Woody” would actually be an acceptable alternative title, as he is so squarely in the spotlight here.

VSQW_VARIANT_HAWTHORNEIt helps that the entire creative team is spot on with the character, both in his expressive nature (Pérez’s facials are fantastic) and Woody’s unique way of oscillating through readers’ admiration and ire. It’s cliché, but he really is the quintessential guy you love to hate / hate to love; and the team here shows all of Woody’s lovely little jagged facets with appropriately reckless abandon. It’s clear that Tim Siedell “gets” Asmus’ Quantum and Woody, and he doesn’t miss a damn beat here. Neither does Pere Pérez.

As a series, Quantum and Woody has boasted an almost always impressive battery of artists, and Pérez fits nicely into that legacy. His slick style is so clean and controlled, it gives a great balance to the book’s resident chaos. Like Siedell, he shows a total command of the look of this world, whether it’s something ludicrous, like exploding planets or pitched superhero battles; or something more sombre, like the issue’s captivating flashback sequences and one especially emotional panel of brotherly love ... which is then all but completely undermined by a scene just as incredible, but far more callous and capricious.

From toy fire engines to writhing mutant tentacles to biological light shows, Pérez is able to keep things cartoonish, while also giving each scene nuance. Plus, he can draw the absolute shit out of a crippled Guy Fieri, and who doesn’t want to see that image all day, every day? Pérez’s talents here also translate to his layouts, which are formulaic for the most part, but show a deftness of kinetics in the book’s action that should not go unappreciated.

Pérez gets some great visual backup from colorist Allen Passalaqua, whose work here is top drawer. Like his compatriots, Passalaqua shows a dexterous application of his craft, bouncing happily between neon flourish and subtle coloring cues, most noticeably in the range between the more prosaic (but emotionally-driven) flashback sequences, and the fantastically bombastic super-science portal scenes. The even-handed colors complete the creative trifecta, making this story feel just about flawless.

Pérez’s talents continue to impress later, this time with regular series writer James Asmus, in the book’s second and markedly shorter story, which takes Woody on a Dr. Seussian Christmas Carol through alternate worlds; not to mention toward the more unlikely appreciation of his adoptive brother, Eric (Quantum). Meanwhile, the third story by Siedell and artist Brian Level sees the introduction of a compelling foil and villain for Quantum and Woody; one that I hope will show up in January’s Quantum and Woody Must Die.

Both follow-up stories in this “Valiant-Sized” issue have their own unique charms, and while I don’t think either retains the same strength of the main story (for obvious reasons; mostly space), each is a fun digestif that plays well with the toothsome tonal flavor of the issue at large.

Anyone missing books like the recently-cancelled Superior Foes should fill that vacuum with Valiant-Sized Quantum and Woody. It is a deliciously filling morsel for both regular and new fans alike, and a great way to tide yourself over until Quantum and Woody Must Die #1 drops (with mafackin’ Steve Lieber art) in the new year.

Score: 4/5

Writers: Tim Siedell, James Asmus Artists:  Pere Pérez, Brian Level Colorists: Allen Passalaqua, Will Quintana, Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $4.99 Release Date: 12/3/14