By James Asmus, Steve Lieber, Dave McCaig and Dave Lanphear
Man, PETA is going to be pissed. Or, presumably, they would be if any animals actually were hurt in the making of this comic, but boy howdy some get hurt on the inside. And, well, their outsides as well. All in a day’s work for The World’s Worst Superhero Team™ in this, the penultimate issue of Quantum and Woody Must Die! James Asmus, Steve Lieber and Dave McCaig deliver another irreverent, irascible issue that delivers the requisite comedy goods while pitting several species in direct harm. Fun!
As mentioned in the review for this mini-series’ first issue, Quantum and Woody Must Die! (like almost all Q+W series thus far) really does feel like the closest thing to a quality sitcom one can find in comics’ right now. That’s not a slight either, it speaks volumes of the creative team’s ability to marry traditional superheroics with sharp comedy pacing and episodic storytelling. James Asmus’ dialogue, specifically the brilliantly dim exclamations of Woody, is consistently hip (do the kids still say “hip”?) and refreshingly real. The characters in this book opine and react so naturally (okay, maybe not all the characters – hard to keep up with what murderous French Canadian mime lingo) that it’s refreshing and familiar, and helps to balance out the over-the-top insanity of events that surround the more intimate roof-top rendezvous.
One of the strengths to Asmus’ original run on Quantum and Woody was his ability to inject heart into the ostensibly bonkers stories he was telling, specifically in the flashbacks to the Henderson brothers’ childhood. These flashbacks were often thematically linked to the present day narrative and delivered a pinch of gravitas to wholeheartedly hilarious tales. This mini-series has lacked that level of emotional heft somewhat, but there are glimmers of it in Quantum’s awkwardly romantic scenes with Sheila and the in the brothers’ concern for their…goat/dad.
On the other end of the spectrum (namely, 98% of the book) are Asmus’ pitch-perfect inanities doled out with great pacing, specifically the continued efforts of the Grudge League! This series has been all about comeuppance; teaching our ersatz heroes that their actions aren’t without repercussions despite their intentions and the Grudge League and their back-assward schemes and motivations have been a delight. This issue’s zoological misadventures deliver the heartiest laughs so far, even if those chuckles will often be followed with a guilt-ridden “awwww.” That poor falcon.
Unsurprisingly, Steve Lieber continues to show why he’s the best in business when it comes to illustrating caped comedy. As always, Lieber excels when it comes to his figure work, with gestures that blend Scooby-Doo antics with realistic action. The exaggerated facial expressions and hilarious flailing figures are all kept in check by Lieber’s ability to control the pacing to best deliver that punchline or big reveal. This issue’s silhouetted bestial battle is particularly well done in its ability to set-up a one-liner. Lieber’s cartooning is rhythmic and it has to be in order to work in synch with the gags (and down-to-earth moments) in Asmus’ script and comedy beats of Lieber’s own design. There are occasions still where pages feel cramped in order to make room dialogue, like the page where Quantum arrives at the zoo and argues over a common saying. It’s only one instance, but the 8-panel page slows the pacing and the word balloon heavy page (while admittedly very funny) feels more crowded than need be. More often than not, Lieber has room to stretch and the splashes found throughout this issue are among the best thus far in this mini-series. He also renders the greatest bomb-adorned suicidal endangered threat you’re likely to find in any comic ever, so fingers crossed for a spin-off title featuring those three-toed villains.
McCaig’s colors enhance the light-hearted tone while subtly texturing the world. The lighting on the brightly saturated foreground colors are a great complement to Lieber’s art and the sponged texturing found throughout (in the flora of the zoo, the city rooftops, a warehouse ceiling, panda fur, etc.) goes a long way to add depth to the visuals. The spectral, radiant green of the aquarium is exactly as abrasive as needed and the saturated backdrops of various action sequences let the foreground characters remain vivid. Quantum and Woody Must Die! is a highly chromatic affair to be sure, with all its comedic pops, but McCaig weaves in various tints to the palette to achieve a nice balance of playful, well lit cartoon (the fight with Terminal) and more grounded, quiet interactions (Quantum’s rooftop date).
This is a strong issue from all involved and the uncertainty of exactly where this series is headed in its final issue is part of the charm. Are people still trying to kill them? Will the goat/dad give birth? Seriously, how pissed off is PETA going to be? Like blue-clad Jake Gittes, our heroes keep obliviously stumbling into the actions of others, while just trying to get through their days. Sharp and succinctly funny, Quantum and Woody Must Die! continues to be the cure for the humorless grim and gritty atmosphere prevalent in many a comic today. Unless you feel strongly about pandas.