Quantum and Woody! v.3 #1
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Julian Totino Tedesco (regular)/Geoff Shaw, Neal Adams, Clayton Henry & Nick Pitarra (variants)
Editor: Danny Khazem
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I was a big supporter and fan of Quantum and Woody going back to when Priest and “Doc” bright first launched the book under the Acclaim/Valiant banner… 20 years ago?!? Jesus! Has it been that long? It’s a testament to the unique nature of the property those creators crafted two decades ago that Valiant delivers a revival now. This one succeeds in recreating the non-linear approach for which Priest is so well known, but as for the look of the book, artist Kano offers something quite different. The unconventional panel layouts matches the unconventional plotting and pacing. That means Quantum and Woody! (new and improved, I suppose, because now the title boasts an exclamation point) isn’t an easy or accessible comic book. It’s a good one, though, and if the reader is up to the challenge, s/he’ll find the experience a rewarding and amusing one.
After the deaths of his parents, Woody Van Chelton is adopted by the family of Eric Henderson, and the two polar opposites — one wild and impulsive, the other studious and bookish — become brothers and friends. As adults, they become much more when their late father bequeaths some amazing technology to the pair that imbues them with super-powers but also bonds them to one another, quite literally. Eric sees it as a chance to do some good as a super-hero, taking on the moniker of Quantum. Woody, well, he sees a chance at fame and profit. Hijinks, property damage and emotional turmoil ensue.
I was struck by how much Kibblesmith has preserved and maintained the original, quirky, challenging feel of the property, but there’s a lot new to be found here. This isn’t a continuation of previous Quantum and Woody stories. Kibblesmith has tweaked and adjusted some of the elements of the origin. Having Eirc and Woody grow up as brothers is a significant shift, and Eric lacks the grim intensity the original incarnation of the character boasted. They’re intriguing changes; it makes Quantum a much more relatable character. Now it’s Woody’s profound irresponsibility that seems almost alien.
I’ve enjoyed Kano’s art ever since I first glimpsed it on DC titles such as Action Comics and H-E-R-O years ago. His work here is considerably different and avant garde. He tosses out traditional comics panel layouts, embracing negative space and unbalanced grids. I’m reminded David Aja’s work on the much-lauded Hawkeye series. I appreciate how Kano alters Eric’s form from the height of his super-heroics to the year-later jump in which he’s showing some age, with some extra weight in his face and midsection. The muted color palette brings an air of maturity to temper the goofier side of the script; I really like the juxtaposition of the warm yellows and oranges with the cool blues to make key moments pop.
Unlike the original Quantum and Woody run, this one doesn’t seem to explore issues of race in any kind of depth. The creators of these characters are both African American, and the same can’t be said of Kibblesmith and Kano. While Q&W was never defined by issues of race, it was still able to explore them, and there’s value in it. This might not be the right creative team for such an exercise, though, but we’ll see if they delve into it in forthcoming issues.
Toward the end of the book, new characters are introduced, and they’re weird. I mean, like Doom Patrol weird. It really caught my attention and entertained me; it’s another way in which this new Quantum and Woody! distinguishes itself from the previous incarnations. There are a few more traditional super-hero elements in this first issue as well, but they’re there as much to parody the genre as to embrace it.
I read up about Kibblesmith to prepare for writing this review, and he’s definitely got the CV for funny and intellectual comic. While he’s a relative neophyte to comic books, he’s highly experienced in writing comedy for other media, notably television. I’m impressed he so embraced the non-linear approach to writing this property. Sure, one could argue it’s a defining characteristic of Quantum and Woody comics, but it also limits how wide its appeal can be. Like the original comics that gave way to this relaunch, this inaugural issue demands a lot of its audience. It demands repeated readings. It demands one’s full attention. But those interested in this comic ought to fulfill those demands. The rewards are worth the work. 8/10