Sunday, January 12, 2014

Making Comics Fun

Quantum and Woody:  Volume 1
Written by James Asmus
Illustrated by Tom Fowler
Published by Valiant
4 Out of 5 Stars

In this reboot from Valiant, Eric and Woody Henderson are adopted brothers whose relationship has always been tense. Polar opposites in every sense, Eric is the reliable, straight-arrow, while Woody is your typical case of reckless arrested development. Raised by Eric's biological father, both competed for his attention and felt unfairly judged against the strengths of the other. This rift only grows over the years to the point where the adult Eric and Woody have nothing to do with one another.

When their father is killed for one of his scientific experiments, Woody and Eric are reluctantly reunited and, in the course of investigating his murder, stumble into one of his experiments--changing the course of their lives forever. Now imbued with superpowers they neither want nor understand, they become the world's worst superhero team: Quantum and . . . well, Woody, because superhero names are stupid, right? In too deep to back out, they continue to pursue their father's killers and, during the course of the adventure, there will be sibling rivalry, crude humor, clones, spider-clown hybrid assassins, and, by God, there will be a goat.

On the surface, Quantum and Woody is nothing new. This is the formulaic buddy-cop movie setup, but with one clever twist. In making Eric and Woody brothers, the conflicts between them go well beyond personality and race. Giving them a shared history and childhood means that they're easy to relate to as it all boils down to good ol' sibling rivalry, which Asmus plays for laughs that hit close to home for anyone who knows the joys of loving--and hating to the depths of your very soul--the people who know you better than anyone else in the world.

Because I never read the original, I have no idea how this reboot matches up. But it is a comic that knows how to laugh at itself and its genre and in the grim age of nihilistic anti-heroes always teetering on the precipice of some existential crisis, it's nice to be reminded that comics can also be plain silly fun.

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