First Impressions – QUANTUM AND WOODY #1

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The parade of reviving old 90s comic characters for a modern audience continues with QUANTUM AND WOODY #1. The most inept duo of crime fighters begin their career. A career that will most likely end in tears. Whether tears of laughter or sorrow (or pain), we’ll just have to wait and see. Klang.

Yes, I’m told there will be a goat. No, it does not appear in this issue. You have my deepest sympathies.

Quantum And Woody is a work in the old Valiant staple that came relatively late in its life. By the time the original series was published, Valiant had already been bought by Acclaim. If you recall anything about comic history, you’d know that Acclaim was also the company that drove what was left of Valiant into the ground.

The original 17 issue series told the tale of estranged childhood friends Eric Henderson (Quantum) and Woodrow Van Chelton, who are brought together again when their respective fathers were murdered, leading them to don superhero identities to investigate. Except Woodrow didn’t actually believe in the whole “secret identity” thing, and everyone just called him Woody. Also they gained superpowers, but that’s kind of assumed.

QUANTUM AND WOODY #1 retains most of the core concept, though it alters some details, probably to make the story simpler. For one, Eric and Woody aren’t childhood friends, they’re adopted brothers, Woody having been taken in by Eric’s father in order to fulfill a promise to the latter’s deceased wife. Which means the two are now Eric and Woody Henderson, which is significantly easier to remember on my part. On another note, Woody’s name is now just Woody, or at least it seems that way. Either his name is still legally Woodrow, and no one bothers to call him that, or Woody’s biological parents are terrible people who thought Woody was a good first name.

Other than that, it’s mostly identical to the old premise, except Woody was retooled from a guitar guy with no band into a straight up thief, which in the long run is probably more interesting. In fact, a good portion of QUANTUM AND WOODY #1 is spent reiterating that yes, Woody is an immoral bastard. Eric remains the straight-laced army man, though he’s hardly boring. Especially when it comes to his brother.

That’s a big part of the story thus far: the changed dynamic to a pair of siblings having to cope with the loss of their dad. And cope with their inherent animosity towards each other, a product of years apart and the fact that they are diametric opposites.

The plot, as stated before, runs parallel to the original. Their father, a scientist at an energy research lab, is killed trying to flee with obviously important research data. By the way, he’s killed by a burly Russian with a hammer and sickle scarred on his face. Our villain is a guy with the symbol of communism etched on his skin for all to see! There’s nothing more I need to say about it; it’s comic books at their finest.

As a result of their fathers death, they decide to investigate his place of employment for clues as to who might have wanted him dead. Due to tomfoolery, they end up exposed to massive doses of energy that presumably give them superpowers. I say presumably because despite this being the origin issue for a team of superheroes, it ends just after their exposure (in more ways that one, nudge nudge).

This is a trend popular these days in comics that I’m not entirely fond of. In the days of decompressed storytelling, origin stories that could have fit in one issue twenty years ago now take three or four issues to fully play out. Which on the one hand it good because it means characters can be fleshed out more. And the publishers can fill out their trade volumes more easily. But on the other hand, it’s bad because except for a minor out of context scene flashing forward to them being superheroes (badly), we’ve yet to see these guys assuming their mantles. We know who Eric and Woody are as characters but we don’t know who they are as superheroes. And for someone who is on the fence about whether they want to lay down cash to read multiple issues of a single comic, that’s a problem.

From a writing perspective, QUANTUM AND WOODY #1 is very good. It’s funny, and it’s heartfelt. To reiterate, I know now who the eponymous characters are and what they’re like. It’s actually a pretty dense read all things considered, and in that time a number of plot threads, mysteries, and characters are established for readers to latch onto. And while the book is serious when it needs to be, it understands how to have fun, a quality many modern superhero comics struggle with.

From an artistic standpoint…it looks good. Honestly I don’t know why I need to comment on how well the book is illustrated, because the current crop of books from Valiant have all been consistently good. It’s one of the things I love about Valiant in general: quality is not an exception, it’s the rule.

So I guess the question is do I recommend QUANTUM AND WOODY? Yes, if you want more superhero comics. And really, this is probably some of the best, old-school superhero action you’re going to get. You have characters with their own problems, and they solve it by investigation and kicking tail. No crossovers (yet), no arbitrary mandates from the editors that follow the publishing industry politics. Just a couple guys getting superpowers and fighting crime.

For a while now, I’ve wondered whether my exhaustion with modern superheroes stems from me just being tired of the genre altogether. But looking at it again, it’s not that the superheroes that tax me. It’s the quality of their books. QUANTUM AND WOODY #1 reminded me what good superhero action is, something that the Big Two publishers – DC in particular – seem to have forgotten.

But that’s an entire other rant in and of itself. What I will say is that there’s a reason all the new series I’ve been checking out for First Impressions have been from the independents. Except Larfleeze, and that’s a special case.

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