Quantum and Woody Volume 2: In Security
By James Asmus, Ming Doyle, and Jordie Bellaire
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Sweet Je$u$, is nothing sacred? Luckily, under the bitingly funny pen of James Asmus and sharp skill of Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire, no. Nothing is sacred. This is America, dammit and if we need to bring down some white supremacist gun nuts a peg or two, by golly, that’s what our founding father’s intended. Or not. That constitution is deceptively tricky, what with amendments and slippery lawyers and what have you. What are we talking about again? Oh right, the hilariously satisfying, semi-satirical and irreverently self-aware second volume of Quantum & Woody, “In Security.” Paired with a dream team on art, Asmus delivers a yee-hawingly fun ride that sees the world’s worst superhero team actually accomplish superheroics in the name of peace, justice and the American way…provided Warner Bros. doesn’t have that copyright on lock.
Instead of relying on that well-worn trope of focusing purely on the odd couple nature of the brothers Henderson, complete with canned “awww”s and “haha”s, Asmus develops a plot that progresses smoothly and humorously allowing for the jokes to complement the story, not drive it. With the origin tale out of the way in the first arc, which by the way also had a dump truck full of terrifically insane sci-fi comic book science and villains, this second story arc is more grounded. We find our heroes, their homicidal goat and the nineteen year-old clone of a monstrously evil scientist villainess in the midst of infiltrating a separatist militia’s Montana compound only to realize that the private military company led by a born-again conservative cowboy was actually setting them up to fail to….look, it’s more grounded than the first arc, okay? Semantics.
It sounds goofy, sure, and it totally is, but it’s actually really tightly written with no filler of jokes for the sake of jokes as it sometimes felt like during the initial volume. It’s a semi-commentary on American ideal interpretations, overt and blatant in its delivery, but subtly convincing in the way addresses the rights of even the most fervently passionate conspiracy nuts. Okay, politically, the creators views are pretty clear, but there’s no agenda here. It’s still first and foremost a comedy title, but Asmus does have Quantum succinctly explain his own Republican beliefs in a manner that had even this reviewer say, “whelp, that’s the best sell for republicanism I’ve ever read.” But it’s not all potshots at rednecks and the military industrial complex, there’s also a great undercurrent of the idea of heroism. Asmus uses a flashback tale of Quantum’s military service to further strengthen his character as a legitimate man of honor, doing what he feels is right rather than selfishly protect his own interests. Woody too has an epiphany of sorts when the “twelve-year-old, baby making militia kids” call him a hero and it surprisingly hits a chord within him to rush into action instead of rush into the safety of a hot tub.
Again, the selling point here is the comedy and Asmus’ dialogue (in conjunction with the great visual sell of Doyle’s pencils) is the gem of this book. It’s quick, if not occasionally sophomoric and not overly reliant on pop-culture references to get a cheap laugh. The cartoonish bluster of Magnum (the aforementioned cowboy PMC leader) and the gee-williker yokel guffaws of the militia-men (and ladies! They may be backwards, but at least they’re gender progressive) are appropriately over-the-top because these characters are intentionally caricatures.
It’s also littered with great bits, like Woody, the goat and Sixty-Nine (the nineteen year-old clone…see, sophomoric fun!) inexplicably have clown make-up on when Quantum comes home one day. Or the many on-point ring-tones of various characters’ cell phones. Or Woody and Sixty-Nine busting into an evil scientists’ death-ray enabling robot when they think they’re headed into a nightclub, while Quantum crashes into an actual nightclub when he thinks he’s foiling evil machinations all because abandoned warehouses all look the same. Jokes!
Then there’s Doyle and Bellaire just straight killing art duties throughout. Seriously, this is a perfect pairing of pencils, inks and colors. Bellaire is one of the best in the business for a reason and part of it is her versatility, specifically the flat style she employs here to let the pencils sing. Ming Doyle’s style is this beautiful marriage of Dick Tracy strips and early Frank Miller. It’s understated, soft and gritty all at the same time. Action flows from panel to panel to great (often comic) effect and character work is deceptive; what at first glance may appear paper-doll flat is actually life with life and never stiff. She’s restrained on inks, but incorporates them well when necessary, focusing on maintaining the tone of the story. And you know how you can tell she’s a skilled drafter? She draws one hell of a car and that shit is about as hard as anything to draw. Bellaire’s flat, somewhat-muted palette is inviting and well, just plain fun to look at. “Fun to look at” is the level of analysis you can always look for in these reviews, folks. Flipping through the book, the success of the art team is immediately evident, it effectively and enticingly tells the story and would be able to communicate what’s happening and even a great deal of the jokes, even if there weren’t any words in the balloons found therein.
Quantum and Woody might be a light-hearted read, lacking deep intellectual exploration, but just because it isn’t Metamorphosis, doesn’t mean it’s mindless. It follows in the footsteps of the best kind of South Park-level clever humor through the lens of superhero comics. If you want to deconstruct the superhero and look for meta-commentary, this isn’t your ticket. If you want to know what it would be like to have that selfish pain-in-the-ass buddy of yours actually get superpowers and see caricatures of some of America’s more colorful types get their comeuppance, welcome aboard. Beautiful art, smart scripting and guaranteed smirk-per-page fun, it is your patriotic duty to pick up “In Security.”
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