Emily S. Whitten: The World’s Worst Superhero Team!

Quantum and WoodyThis week I thought I’d get back to basics and, you know, actually talk about a comic book (gasp!). Being in the mood for some potentially light reading, I poked around the myriad stories that I’ve picked up and not had time to read yet, and happened upon the first TPB for Quantum and Woody! The World’s Worst Superhero Team (the Valiant Comics 2013-2014 version). One look at the title and the cover (one tough-looking costumed superhero, one completely douchey-looking frat boy type superhero, and… a goat?) and I knew I’d probably at least not be bored.

And boy, was I right about that. I’m trying to think of a way to sum up what I just read, and I feel like, “This book is so wrong it’s right” might just about cover it. The premise – about two estranged brothers who end up reuniting to find out who murdered their father – sounds like it has potential from the start, and it does provide a good structure for the action. But what makes the book really work are the irreverent humor, the zany take on storytelling, and the strongly developed personalities of the characters we’re introduced to; as well as the flips back to the early years of Eric (Quantum) and Woody.

Those glimpses of earlier times show us a couple of brothers who were once very close, despite Woody being a foster child in the home of Eric and his scientist father, and, well, … a bit of a problem kid. They draw us in to make us want to know more about how the brothers ended up in a present where they’re fist-fighting over their father’s casket; without overwhelming us with the past.

The present shows us a Woody who is always careless and short on funds and, almost always, as douchey as he looks on the front cover (like when he tries to tell the cops who are coming to arrest him and his brother that his brother is a “crazy black man” and a “Muslim fundamentalist who tried to blow up our Godless white science!”).

Because, oh yeah, did I mention? Eric is black, and Woody is white. Which the story totally owns, in the way that the TV show Psych owns the best-friendship of Shawn and Gus – by not ignoring it, but turning an alternatingly warmly humorous and sharply commentarial look on it instead. The present also shows us an Eric who is more serious and responsible (except when led astray by his ne’er-do-well brother), and who also has Army and tactical training, and an actual paying job. Naturally this mismatch turns out to make the two the perfect pair to see “working” together. It sets up a fun buddy story dynamic that (surprising to no one who knows me) reminded me a bit of Cable & Deadpool – the responsible straight man and the wacky irresponsible comic dude somehow balancing each other out. Oh, and the results of an exploding science experiment force them to spend time with each other even when they’d rather be anywhere else (can anyone say, “bodyslide by one?”).

The first four issues in the Volume I TPB show us the crazy science experiment and origin of the “superhero” part of the buddy story, and it was a weird and interesting enough tale to keep my attention, despite being a little convoluted. Some of it almost felt like an elaborate excuse to take a stab at a certain historical figure (I won’t spoil everything for you) but, eh – I was amused anyway. And the rest of it, involving the brothers’ dad, allowed for some great emotional beats in a comic in which most of the time, nothing is sacred, as the story pokes fun at clowns, cripples, superhero costumes, and more. But it’s played for a laugh that works, because the writer (James Asmus) isn’t asking you to agree with the (sometimes offensive) commentary; but instead, writes it in such a way as to lampoon the wrongness of the joke as much as the target.

And while we’re mentioning creators, let’s send a fist-bump (Woody would totally fist-bump) to artist Tom Fowler and colorist Jordie Bellaire for dynamic and expressive art, and vibrant (except for the muted flashbacks, done to good effect) colors in the book. The writing and art make for a fun, and cohesive whole, and kept me laughing or smiling (even while sometimes shaking my head) pretty much the whole time.

Needless to say I want to continue reading to see what happens to these two knuckleheads. It looks like there are at least two more TPBs by James Asmus out there, and a quick Google search shows that it’s recently come back under the new title of Quantum and Woody Must Die!. Sooooo…I know what’s next on my pull list.

Off I go to acquire some more Quantum and Woody! Maybe you should too? And until next time, Servo Lectio!