Valiant (Re)visions: “Quantum & Woody” #2 and “Shadowman” #9 [Review]

Brandon: Welcome to another month of Valiant (Re)Visions! For the next couple of weeks i’ll be joined by Mr. Chad Bowers. So Chad this week we have Quantum and Woody #2 and Shadowman #9 to discuss. So lets just launch right into things and begin with Quantum and Woody #2 by James Asmus on writing and Tom Fowler on art. What did you think of the issue my friend?

Chad: Okay, let me just start off by talking about the ending — holy god, I didn’t see that coming! It was both hilarious, and absolutely terrifying all at the same time. But I’m jumping ahead, I know, I know… so rewinding things a bit, I have no problem saying that I loved the issue! I thought the first issue was a lot of fun and enjoyed it too, but this second one really hooked me on the characters and the overall tone of the book. Yeah, I dug it. So would you agree that there’s a lot to like about Quantum & Woody #2?

Brandon: I would absolutely agree. I’ve read the first ten or so issues of the original series after it came highly recommended by David Harper and enjoyed those. This series has quickly found a way to capture the tone and humor of that original series but it also does not come across as a simple rehash. I’m also a sucker for a book that plays with what can and can’t be said in a comic book. I love a good pushing of the line and this book has that and then some.

Had you read any of the original series?

Chad: Oh yeah, I read it and was a big fan of the original Q&W (although I never finished the series, which is a shame, because there’s not that much of it). It’s funny, everyone talks about series creator and writer Christopher Priest whenever the original series is discussed, and with good reason — Priest is the best! But for me, Mark Bright (the original Q&A artist) was the big draw. His work on Batman, G.I. Joe, and Iron Man really spoke to me when I was a young kid, so I’ve always made an effort to pick up whatever Bright was working on, and honestly, that’s what sold me on Quantum & Woody back in the day. That, and the series’ inker, Greg Adams, was a friend and patron of the comic shop I used to work at. Greg’s a great guy, and he was always showing us pages and talking the book up, so in addition to being a pretty stellar comic in and of itself, it was also a book I had a slightly personal connection to.

You mentioned how the book’s not just a rehash, and you’re exactly right. Like all the new Valiant books, it’s reverent to (and even acknowledges) the material that inspired it without feeling restricted by it, or so beholden that it can’t do its own thing. And honestly, that’s really kind of the magic of the entire Valiant line currently. But I will say, I look at books like Archer & Armstrong — which is a book I absolutely love — and can’t help but notice how different in tone it is from its classic counterpart. And now there’s Quantum & Woody, which probably nails the tone of original series better than any of the other books, while still having its own, unique voice. Of course we’re just two issues in, but it’s really nice to see that James Asmus knows what made this book a favorite to start with, and that he’s kept a lot of that. But there’s no denying the changes he’s made to the premise and where he’s put Woody and Eric at the beginning of this story have definitely made it his story to tell, and not just an “ultimate-ized” version of what’s come before. Gosh, I ramble. But does that make any sense?

Brandon: Yeah, that all makes total sense. I swear I must have been the only kid on the MC block who didn’t read the original run prior to the announcement of the new series. I would agree that Bright’s work on the O.G. series was to notch. I need to finish that series!

So while we are on the topic of art what did you think of the art on this issue? I can’t imagine it touches on the work done by Bright as there is a sentimental value there that sometimes is hard to compete with, but how did this issues art rate for you?

Chad: I think Tom Fowler’s the best. He’s a pitch perfect match for Asmus’ story, and brings so much to this series that it’s kind of hard to imagine anyone else drawing it. In fact, he’s a lot like Bright in a lot of ways… the way his characters move, and express, and the way every setting is fully realized instead of just the space where the action takes place, etc… Fowler’s really impressive, and there’s not anyone drawing comics the way he does right now. He gives Quantum & Woody this odd mix of Mad Magazine and superhero comics, and yeah, like I said, he really suits this book.

How about you? What’s your take on Fowler’s work, and the second issue overall?

Brandon: Fowler really is the jelly to Asmus’ peanut butter. They’re incredibly complimentary of one another. I’d have to agree that Fowler really is perfect for this book as well. This is the kind of book that lives and dies on its character work. Without Fowler’s incredibly emotive character work this book just wouldn’t express the same humor. Fowler’s ability to provide us humorous character work is only that much more impressive when you place it alongside the great emotional scenes such as Woody and his Father and the moment with the cigarettes. These touching moments really help to add the depth to a book that would possibly be otherwise written off as just a silly book. It’s very similar to what Kevin Maguire brought to the table in Justice League International.

As far as the overall book, I thought this issue was great. It pushed the boundaries in all the right places but also really provided some great character moments, like the aforementioned cigarette scene, that took this issue to another level beyond just being a silly and racy book. It’s a tight line you walk when you bring race relations and even foster parenting into a book and poke fun at them and this book flat out nails it in every way possible. I especially appreciate this books ability to touch on hot button issues without worrying about the internet reactionary backlash that is so in vogue these days. I hope that this title continues full steam as it is now.

Well, how would you rate this issue Mr Bowers?

Chad: For me, it’s an 8/10. We’ve basically covered why, but like you, I hope this series continues to be this good. Now you call it, B — what’s your score?

Brandon: I would also slap a nice juicy 8 on this tasty book.

Next up we have Shadowman #9 by Justin Jordan on the writing chores and…big breath…Neil Edwards, Roberto De La Torre, Diego Bernard, Rocco Martellaci and Lewis LaRosa on art duties. Holy art credits Bowerman! That is one super long list of artists for a single issue. I am not going to lie I did not realize there were so many contributors on art when I was reading the issue. Did you realize it? Did it hinder your enjoyability at all?

Chad: Maybe just a little bit. Nothing against Jordan, but the art’s been one of the strongest parts of Shadowman right from the start, mostly because it was originally co-plotted by artist Patrick Zircher. So the mood and atmosphere of the series was as much a part of its make-up as the story, and that seems to be something the book’s sort of struggled with since Zircher left. Add to that the fact that this was the finale of a big arc, and this issue especially suffers from not having a cohesive, concentrated voice driving the art. But that might just be me, Brandon, I don’t know…

Brandon: I found this issue to be really solid and as I mentioned before I didn’t even notice that the art was spread amongst so many individuals. I feel like with that many names I should have but I didn’t. As a result my experience was not hindered in the slightest. I felt this was a strong conclusion to the arc and thinned the herd as far as the supporting cast which I think was incredibly necessary as one of my biggest complaints was there were too many mouths to feed and not enough to go around. Finally we get the death of the mentor and the establishment of the hero as a stand on his own two feet handle business kind of guy. I felt like his growth worked in the end but it sure felt like it took forever. I feel like this nine issues could have easily been six.

Chad: I agree. This story arc could’ve been much shorter, and I don’t really understand why it took nine issues to, essentially, just build to a giant fight issue. Not that I mind fight issues, but this finale seemed to be a little bit “Argh, you’ll never defeat me!”-style generic in it’s execution despite having more than half a years worth of comics build up. I guess I would have liked to have seen something a little more, I don’t know… thought provoking, maybe?

And again, let me stress that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a badass dude with a magic scythe and an army of ghosts fighting the evilest guy they can find. Hell, I read comic books for that kind of thing. The lead-in issue to this one was quite strong. And Shadowman as a whole has been sort of beautiful alternative to all of the other Harbinger Wars stuff going on in the Valiant U. Don’t think I’m knocking the series — one of the things it does best is wear its dark-heart on its sleeve and it serves the darkest corners of the universe extremely well. I love the characters, and the setting of this book as much, if not more, than those of the other Valiant books. So a big, over-the-top, world-ending issue that has a lot of tough talk and culls the playing field is well within its wheelhouse. But I would’ve liked to see things pull together a little stronger here at the end — both in story and art — and like you, I would have preferred it taken an issue or two fewer to do it.

Is this where we fight about Shadowman, Burpee, and you never invite me back?

Brandon: Nah, not at all. David and I in the past have agreed that the pacing and the character work at times haven’t been quite where they need to be. I liked this issue and I feel like it sets the table for where the series can and should move in the future. We finally have a developed cast of both heroes and villains and hopefully this be a seriously game changing strength moving forward. Did they need to take nine issues to get to this point? No, not at all. I am really unsure what the decision process was there.

As far as the need for there to be something more thought provoking, I wasn’t really expecting anything like that. To be honest I wouldn’t expect that from Shadoman. This is no slight to the title or the creators but we’ve not seen any thought provoking material to this point so I wasn’t prepared to have mind blown with provocative storytelling. I honestly came into expecting pretty much what we got. I was ready for some action action action! I was ready for someone on the hero side to die and I was ready for some bad dudes to get dispatched. I also was really really ready for more Monkey in a Top Hat. That simian is bad as fuck.

Chad: Yeah, I’ll be sorely disappointed if we don’t get a crossover event basically dedicated to that monkey and that goat from Quantum & Woody.

And I get what you’re saying. It’s quite possible that my expectations for Shadowman are my own problem (as most things are), but I just would like to see the series go maybe a little more Vertigo than NBC’s “Grimm” or whatever. I’m very interested in exploring and finding out more about that spiritual corner of Valiant. And I felt like there was some of that being done with Dr. Mirage, but then that just fell by the wayside.

Anyway, I’ll take the lead on this one, Brandon, and drop a rating. I give Shadowman # 9 a 6.5/10. That probably seems more harsh than I intend for it to, especially since I really do like the book. But this issue needed to do a lot, and while yeah, it wrapped up this initial arc and did so in a that baseline, entertaining way, it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. So yeah… 6.5.

Bring us home, B!

Brandon: I would buy the shit out of a Monkey in a Top Hat & Goat crossover! That is one arc that couldn’t go too long!

I’d give the issue an 8. I rather enjoyed it and I felt it brought things to a head finally. Now I am excited to see where the title goes. Although as we’ve been doing this it has been announced that Justin Jordan is moving on after issue #11 so I am even more interested to see what becomes of this title.

Thanks for taking the time to do this with me this week, Chad, and I look forward to talking more awesome Valiant books with you next week!

About The AuthorChad BowersChad Bowers has been reading comics for most of his life. His transition from fan to professional is a work in progress. He’s the co-founder of ACTION AGE COMICS, creator of the webcomic MONSTER PLUS, co-creator of AWESOME HOSPITAL, THE HARD ONES, and DOWN SET FIGHT (coming soon from Oni Press) with Chris Sims. He reviews comics, writes G.I. JoeVersity, and co-hosts The Hour Cosmic for Multiversity Comics! If you've got nothing better to do, you can follow him on Twitter or Tumblr.

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About The AuthorBrandon BurpeeBurpee loves Superheroes, Alaskan IPA, 90's X-Men and is often one more beer away from a quotable.

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