Valiant (Re)visions: Quantum & Woody #1 [Review]

David: This week on Valiant (Re)visions we have two very special events! First off, I’m joined by a guest co-reviewer in fellow Multiversity associate editor Brian Salvatore. Second off, we’re reviewing the first issue of Quantum & Woody from James Asmus, Tom Fowler and Jordie Bellaire.

Let’s start off the review by sharing our previous experience with these characters originally created by Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright. Not that many people read the original series (that came from Valiant/Acclaim), but me? I cherished the living hell out of that series. I’ve read it many times, most recently just a few months ago, and it is as good as it was when I originally read it in my teens.

Brian, did you have any experience with this book before reading this issue?

Brian: Besides the name, nothing. I had heard of the series, and heard it heartily recommended by many, but never picked it up. For the uninitiated, what was the original series like, in terms of plot, creative team, and tone?

David: Well, for the most part just like the first issue of this. We’ll get to that in a second, but the original series starred Eric and Woody – two former best friends who were separated when they were young but reunited when their scientist fathers were killed in the same “accident” – as the superhero team Quantum & Woody. It was very light in tone, overall, and featured maybe more asides in the story than actual story. It was remarkably TV show like, all things considered, and could get serious if the story needed it. Bright’s art was solid, if not unspectacular, and Priest brought the funny and the awesome all of the time.

It was a damn fine book. Save for the substantial difference of Eric and Woody being brothers in this though, much is the same plot-wise. Let’s get into that. Brian, what did you think of this issue as an uninitiated reader?

Brian: Overall, I dug it. I though it gave just about as good of a jumping on point for the series as you could ask for, and did a nice job letting us know exactly who these two characters are, and what they are all about. I have a few issues, which we’ll get to later, but what about you? As a fan of the old series, what did you think of the new take on the characters?

David: I liked it man. You know, a lot of fans of the previous series will shake their fists and say this isn’t the old series, but why would we want that? I want to see what this team will do, and their own take captures the spirit of the old series while still doing its own thing. It’s fun, and it plays on the time shifts of the old series without being obsessed with them. It has a lot of callbacks to the previous series, but it really is its own thing.

Plus, Asmus clearly gets Woody. I mean, Eric is a straight man who is really lost in the joke about how ridiculous it is that he is crazy serious about being a hero, but Woody is a fascinating buffoon who is hilarious. I loved his rendition here.

Let’s talk about the art. What did you think of Fowler and Bellaire here? This is probably blasphemy, but I thought they are a substantial improvement on Bright’s art (even if he was really good), especially with how expressionistic Eric and Woody were. As much as I enjoyed Bright’s art, Fowler’s characters have very believable and fitting movements and expressions that elevate Asmus’s script. He’s really a great fit.

Brian: Fowler was on his game here – I don’t have the fuzzy memories of Bright’s work on the series in my head, so I was able to approach it as close to blind as I could, and Fowler’s work never took itself too seriously or attempted to be something that it isn’t. Instead, he made the book his own by adding this sarcastic sheen to all the images in the book – even when Woody isn’t on the page, you can feel him smirking off page, and his cynicism works his way into everything here.

As you said, between Asmus really nailing the dynamic between the brothers and Fowler visually nailing the half-winking world through the eyes of Woody, this issue has a lot of good going for it.

However, I do have one major gripe with this issue. This is a superhero comic that features little to no superheroics! I know we need to meet the characters and establish the setting, yadda yadda, but I’m personally sick of books making readers wait more than 10 pages before seeing what these heroes are all about when they’re being heroes. Am I off base here?

David: I would say so, if only because that’s not what this book’s mission statement is. In the original iteration, you could say it was 50% superheroics and you might be being generous. This is an origin story for “the worst superhero team in the world,” so I think it’s fair to put it on a different plane as an Avengers or Justice League book or something. I understand why you would feel like that, but I think that might be more of a misunderstanding of what you were getting into than a failure by the book.

Brian: I don’t know why I’m out of line for expecting a book that has the word “superhero” in the tagline to be about superheroes!

So, overall, what are your expectations for the series moving forward? As a longtime fan, do you have a wishlist of sorts?

David: Not really. I just hope it’s a good comic that captures the spirit of the original series without being beholden to it. So far, so good. That’s all I can really ask for from it.

As someone who has no ties to it at all, do you plan to keep reading it? Also, did you have any other beef with it? I got the impression that there were a few things that stuck out negatively to you.

Brian: I’d consider picking up #2 and seeing from there. My biggest issues come from the general decompression of the issue, which I mentioned a little before. For a Tradewaiter, I just wrote about “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode,” and upon re-reading it for the column, it struck me how each scene has a implicit purpose that helps move the plot forward without feeling repetitive. I read this shortly thereafter, and felt that there was a little too much reinforcing the same ideas over and over again. I wish some of that space had been used differently, but ultimately that was the only part of the book I really wasn’t feeling.

The characters are inspired, the art looked nice, and there’s enough intrigue to get me to read at least one more issue.

David: That’s interesting, because I don’t feel like this issue feels decompressed at all. It starts in a flash forward when they have powers, introduces the characters, walks the reader through their relationship, sets up their central mystery that ties them together, and then goes through the event that gives them powers. That’s like…five issues in Age of Ultron!

But overall, I’m a big fan of this book. It’s not the original series from Priest and Bright, but I don’t want it to be. It effectively captures the spirit of the original series while being its own thing, Asmus gets the characters and how to use them, and the team of Fowler and Bellaire creates some downright perfect art for the story. This isn’t my favorite first Valiant issue, but it’s a damn fine book with tons of potential.

What would you give it on a ten point scale my friend?

Brian: This gets a solid 7 from me – I think there is a ton of potential here for growth, and I’m excited to see where it goes. How about you?

David: It’s going to get an 8.5 from me. I was really excited for it, and it came through for me. Asmus, Fowler and Bellaire hit a home run for me, and I am so excited to have Eric and Woody back!

About The AuthorDavid HarperDavid Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).

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About The AuthorBrian SalvatoreBrian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his daughter, or playing music with his daughter. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).

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