Quantum and Woody Volume 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team
by James Asmus, Tom Fowler and Jordie Bellaire
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Are you tired of the same old goat-less comics? Do you struggle to find a superhero duo that fights giant clown spiders with needle faces? Constantly fearing you have too much reverence for Thomas Edison? Why must you suffer more than any man, woman or child that has ever suffered on the face of this desolate horrible rock hurtling through abstruse space and time? There has to be a better way! Now there is! Thanks to the Valiant efforts (get it?…sorry) of James Asmus, Tom Fowler and Jordie Bellaire, the inaugural volume of Quantum and Woody, “The World’s Worst Superhero Team” is here to slake your irreverent thirst.
Following the sudden death of their brilliant scientist father, Derek Henderson, two brothers are reunited in an effort to solve the mysterious circumstances of his death, only to find themselves empowered after a laboratory explosion because comic book science. Eric Henderson (aka Quantum) is the pair’s comedy straight man; disciplined, responsible and guided by a moral core instilled in him by his father and his time in the Army. Woody (aka Woody) is Eric’s adopted brother and an all-around screw-up; selfish, flippant and guided by his desire to make a quick buck by almost any means. Needless to say, when the two first come face to face after nine years apart they promptly trade blows, knock over a casket and spend the night in jail. Things take a turn towards the absurd from there as the once estranged brothers are imbued with bizarre energy-based powers from their father’s research equipment and, after a particularly explosive and particularly nude encounter with police, become the top suspects in their father’s murder. Now wanted by both the authorities and the secretive group truly responsible for the crime, they decide to don capes and tights (well, one of them does…guess who backed out) to continue their crusade. And fight each other. And make a few dick jokes.
It’s not all jokes as James Asmus does deftly tell an enthralling action-adventure tale with moments of real sentimentality. The familial relationship between the titular brothers and their own unique relationships with their father are told with genuine heart. Seeing Derek struggle, via flashbacks, as a single father raising a foster child as difficult as Woody to honor his deceased wife’s noble wishes while seeing his biological son begin to resent him is honestly touching. Eric and Woody’s own history, being thick as thieves and growing further and further apart is more than just cliché back story, it reads as legitimate character defining storytelling. Without the quality and strength of these moments, the puerile humor would likely give this title the depth of an Adam Sandler movie. The humor has to settle before it really becomes effective, with Asmus getting in his own way a little in the early chapters with certain brief moments feeling as though they were built around a joke as opposed to the joke coming from the circumstances. That feeling is short-lived and post-lab explosion, there is a much more nuanced balance to the humor. The dialogue is sharp throughout, but your mileage will vary when it comes to Woody’s nonstop quipping with content that ranges from Spider-Man level one-liners to near-Lenny Bruce areas of political incorrectness. But when it is funny, it is very funny.
While Asmus may be the one writing the jokes, the comedy and the associated beats are entirely reliant on the art in this book and oh, what glorious art it is. Tom Fowler is one of the best in the business when it comes to not just expressive faces, but expressive anatomy that conveys the pitch perfect exasperation, befuddlement, seething rage and grandstanding cockiness required. His line work neither fully sketchy nor fully conservative; there’s detail there, but nothing feels excessive as though Alan Davis and Rob Guillory had an art baby. Much more than complimenting the fine drawing of Mr. Fowler is the coloring of the preeminent Jordie Bellaire, who plays just as large a part in the storytelling as her collaborators. Her palette in the flashbacks sequences, muddied and washed out sepia, reds and yellows, is entirely responsible for what makes them so engrossing and effective. There’s great blending throughout that adds a staggering about of enrichment to background textures be they ornate laboratories or city skyscrapers, not to mention the disgustingly good job on the spider-clown-needle-faced-blob-monster. Thanks for that Jordie. Additionally, a special recognition for letterer Dave Lanphear who got in on the comedy with his own inclusion of an exploding sound effect FK-KUUUUUUU. This creative team is in tight synchronization, delivering a master class of in comedic storytelling.
While the humor makes this an enjoyably quick read, there’s a hearty story that lays a large foundation for future arcs. While the humor might slowly ware out its novelty, for now this story will certainly leave you anxious for what’s next (i.e. more goat). This collection also includes the seven one-page web promotional web comics, which is delightfully more of the same. A quippy, self-aware superhero commentary that isn’t quite Watchmen with whoopee cushions so much as it is Power Man and Iron Fist by way of The Venture Brothers, Quantum and Woody serves as an excellent palate cleanser from the standard superhero fare.
[amazon template=add to cart&asin=1939346185]