July 16, 2013

The Compost Pile

Quantum & Woody – The Original Series Full Review

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The alternate title of this post is:

Not Reading Quantum and Woody

“Give me back my card, B-word!”

Let me explain.

Last weekend, the good folks at Valiant and the good folks at Collector’s Paradise teamed up to put on a fantastic event, a Quantum & Woody release party. While everyone was waiting for James Asmus, Dinesh Shamdasani, and Atom! Freeman to show up, somebody asked me, “so, what’s with the goat?”

I then had to admit, I have never read the original Quantum & Woody run. I’ve read the first several issues, but that’s it.

When Atom! found this out, he revoked my card. Yes. Revoked.

I couldn’t go on living without my card, so I told Atom! I would have Quantum & Woody read by San Diego Comic-Con. That’s what this is, my “book report” to Atom!, having read the entire Acclaim run of Quantum & Woody.

Quantum Woody 2 Panel

The Beginning

To be clear, I have started to read Quantum & Woody in the past. I got about three or four issues in before it started to drag on me. What I noticed is that there is a lot of the same humor used over and over, and many of the jokes are repeated, or told in a another way. I think the first few issues are harder to read all in a row, rather than a month apart, as originally published. That’s what was tough to get through the first time around, the feeling that I was reading the same issue three times in a row, just with different details.

That started to change a bit with issue 4, the “noogie” issue. The humor started to change and develop, as the story moves beyond Woody and Eric’s bickering, breaks the fourth wall, makes fun of Ninjak, and more. Issue four starts to get a bit more to the meat of what makes Quantum & Woody a great series.

Issue four also starts to develop the idea of recurring jokes, like the use of “N-Word”, “B-Word”, “S-Word”, etc. The use of these pop up from time to time later on in the series, and it is always funny. I know this isn’t the first time we see a joke re-told, it really started with the “we’re not a couple” that Eric and Woody repeatedly say, but this is the issue where the use of joke repetition really started to be funny to me.

Super Heroes?

Quantum Woody 8 Panel

After reading the first four issues, I was kinda left wondering if Eric and Woody actually had any super powers. I know they dissolve into energy if they don’t klang their wrist bands together, but beyond that, they don’t really use exhibit any super powers.

Issue five starts us on the super hero path, with them stopping a hostage robbery, and seeing them actually use their powers. We also have Bat Man introduced, who will be pretty important later, even if he is re-named Taylor 88 in the next issue.

This leads to the first big turn-around in the series in issue 6, which is that David Warrant is not dead after all, he has super powers, and was trying to stop the reactor from operating (which gave Q&W their quantum powers). The quest that Q&W go on to figure out who David Warrant is, and what he’s up to provides some great humor over the next couple issues, with Woody’s woodchuck outfit, and Woody trying to sell their rights to make a Batman-esque TV show.

All of this reaches the big climax in issue 8 when, while thwarting the bomb/hostage crisis in the tunnel, Woody takes matters in to his own hands and sacrifices himself to get the van full of explosives away from people.

This is the moment when the series started to mean a whole lot more to me.

In this moment, we see Woody be heroic, and far more than his usual wise-cracking, slacking self. In this moment, this series became far more than “just” a goofy comedy title, and became more about these two complex characters.

Issue nine takes this further, as we see flashbacks to Woody’s past, and his relationship with the hooker and junkie, Lucy, and how he lost her. At the same time, Eric is poking around with the Troublemakers, and this leads to the great conclusion, with Eric being revived, but only while Eric stumbles on to the delicate work to reform Woody’s body, resulting in the great body switch-a-roo.

Woody & Quantum

Quantum Woody 10 Panel

This part of the series may have the most humor of the entire series to date, as Eric and Woody switch bodies. Of course, the most hilarious part of this, as I was promised by others when I committed to this re-read, was the bathroom scene. Eric and Woody are in each others bodies, how do they go to the bathroom? I won’t say any more, because it is hilarious.

The body switch gets played out in many ways, all of which are hilarious. The haircuts, the outfits, the heart condition all play out with a lot of humor. The heart condition, however, leads to a bit of tragic past on Eric’s part, that he was not able to stay in the military, and was forced out.

The worst of this, though, is that when Eric’s childhood love Amy Fishbein returns, we learned that she had a fling with Woody, which Eric never knew about. This never got the play that I expected from this revelation, but it may occur later in the series.

We also get another tragic turn as, right at the end of issue 13, Magnum comes back and kills Taylor 88 to send a message to Q&W. This is, of course, not good.

Goat: H.A.E.D.U.S.

Goat Zero

Quantum & Woody pros know that you read The Goat one-shot before you read Magnum Force. Which I didn’t know until I was a third of the way through Magnum Force.

We also finally get the answer to the question, “what’s up with the goat?” The Goat first appears in issue three of Quantum & Woody, when Woody finds the goat and decides to keep it. Until this issue, it seems that it is just a Goat

This issue really epitomizes something I dislike about this series, which is that the storytelling is choppy and unclear at times. As I’m writing this, I just read the issue. It focuses on Agent Sheridan, aka Tempest, as she tracks down the Goat. The Goat found some kid who has some disease, and there are other people after him and there’s another guy who might be a good guy or bad guy who talks about goats and trolls and a bunch of other stuff, and none of it made a whole lot of sense on the first read.

I get that the Goat can jump around from dimension to dimension and through wormholes and stuff, and that’s about it.

Not to downplay a goat that can make portals to jump anywhere, but you know.

Back to Magnum Force.

Magnum Force

Terrence Magnum killed Taylor at the end of issue 13, and this drives Woody nuts, so he invades Magnum’s stronghold, they get captured, the Goat shows up then leaves, they fight this War Locke dude, escape a James Bond death trap, get in a fight, and abandon their quantum bands.

Of course, it turns out that’s what Magnum wanted all along, and they fell into the trap, but won in the end. Overall, Magnum Force was more of an action slugfest, not quite as remarkable as the preceding nine issues.

The very end, however, has the most tragic bit of the story. Quantum & Woody… is cancelled.

15 Months Later

Quantum Woody 32 Panel

This was actually pretty clever, from a publishing point of view. 15 months after Quantum & Woody was cancelled with issue 17, it was brought back with issue 32, which is the issue Q&W would have been on if it hadn’t been cancelled. Issue 32 was published, then they started back with issue 18, picking up where they left off, with the intention of telling the story that leads to the events of issue 32. Even more clever, issue 32 is part three of a four-part story arc. That is pretty cool.

Issue 32 plays up the fact that issues 18 through 31 were never published, including notes referring to earlier events in issue 18, 22, 24, and 30. Woody has become Doctor Eclipse, and evil villain that might destroy the world, and Eric has a new “Woody” in the tradition of Robin. This issue, and this whole concept was really well executed, and plenty entertaining. The sad end of this is that only four more issues were published, and we don’t get to see the entire story leading to the events of issue 32.

Back To The Regularly Scheduled Program

Quantum Woody 18 Panel

Issue 18 picks right up where issue 17 left off, with Q&W finding out that their cancellation has been undone. They are, however, powerless, and on the run from the French Police.

Once out of jail, they both kind of wander aimlessly, and deal with their urges to remain superheroes, even without their super powers. Issues 18, 19, and 20 are a bit slow, as Eric and Woody meander around, and David Warrant meets some other super-folk on the moon and lives with them.

At the same time as Quantum & Woody are still trying to be heroes in their own ways, Toyo Harada is trying to use Eric to steal Warrant’s power, or something, and there is some meta-commentary about the Marvel Knights line as Woody tries to sue “Marble” comics over his likeness in a book they are publishing, called “Dark Kitty” (a play on Black Panther, also written by Christopher Priest around this same time), or something.

These last few issues feel like they are building towards some larger event, and refer to events in Solar and Unity 2000 to explain what is going on. I feel like I am missing something by not knowing the details of the rest of the Acclaim line being published at this time.

Quantum Woody 0 panel

Zeroed Out

I don’t want Atom! to pull some shenanigans, and claim I didn’t read it “all”, because I made no mention of issue zero. There is a zero issue, which was published around the time of issue six or seven, as far as I can tell.

It makes the whole body-switching scene make a little more sense, since Eric finds out that Woody slept with Amy Fishbein, so Eric already knows when Amy comes back for more, thinking that it is actually Woody in Woody’s body (and not Eric, which it currently is, and yes, this body switching stuff is confusing to write about).

This issue contains a short story about, as usual, an act of crime fighting gone horribly wrong, and how Eric and Woody’s quarreling gets them in to even more trouble. The rest of the issue is just background matter, character design sketches and studies, stuff like that.

Wrap It Up

Quantum & Woody is great. I should have read it sooner. I do still feel like the first few issues are a bit slow and repeptitive, but there are events in those issues that set up stories that happen a year later, which shows quite a bit of long-sight for the series.

The height of the series is issues 5 through 13. These have the funniest, and the most heart-felt, character driven moments of the entire series. Those nine issues are the best of this run, and a must read for any fan of the old Valiant material, or those just looking to read some of the classic material that has inspired the series that just launched last week.

Quantum & Woody is at its best when it digs in to the characters, reveals what makes them tick, what motivates them, then crashes those things together to make a hilarious book.

I know Quantum & Woody is fondly remembered by a lot of fans as the best of the Acclaim years, and after crashing through this series with reckless abandon, I can see why.

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