Friday, November 14, 2014

"Buffer zone! Buffer!!" Q2: The Return of Quantum & Woody #1 review

When the revived Valiant Comics announced they would be bringing back the series Quantum & Woody, but without creators Christopher Priest & Mark Bright, my reaction wavered somewhere between "what's the point?" and "this is disgrace." Creators and their interpretations of characters come and go; sometimes in comics, the character's creator is not the person who develops the definitive version of that character. And yet, Quantum & Woody is a Priest/Bright comic book. You could plug in any talented creators and tell decent stories, but you would be stripping away the particularly unique vision Priest had in the original 1990s series.

It would be easy to see Quantum & Woody as a super hero comedy series, or as a satire of the genre. In part, that's true, but there's a particular style Priest used to tell his stories; his Quantum & Woody seemed to be super heroes in a world which didn't really have a use for them; Quantum in particular was earnest and intelligent about his goal to fight crime, yet the tropes which normally make crime-fighting for super heroes easy, never quite clicked (consider how infrequently the duo actually/successfully fought criminals in the series). Eric & Woody's deep, lengthy bond of mutual loathing made it a perfect companion to Priest & Bright's Power Man & Iron Fist.

Fortunately, Valiant seems willing to do right by Priest & Bright, hence the recent release of Q2: The Return of Quantum & Woody#1, reuniting the creators with their creations in a project which seems to exist in the original Valiant universe, rather than the one where "I can't believe it's not Priest & Bright's Quantum & Woody!" reside. Predictably, Priest has chosen to pick up where he left off - resuming the character's lives in the present, that is (just as an earlier semi-cancellation caused Priest to skip months ahead into the story).

In this future, Eric & Woody have drifted apart somehow and neither one is an active super hero. And yet, there's still a Quantum & Woody out there (in what seems to be a metatextual reference to "Store Brand Quantum & Woody"). Woody goes investigating and winds up waging a war of insults with the new Woody. As before, the story also breaks to visit Eric & Woody's childhood and there's a quick recap of their origin for latecomers. That said, anyone who hasn't read Priest & Bright's Quantum & Woody before would do better to begin with the original stories (collected into trades & digital copies by Valiant) rather than start here; you can follow the story, but you might not get it.

Considering Priest & Bright have been away from comics for awhile, it's astounding to see how easily they slip right back into their roles. I've enjoyed the smooth, round lines in Bright's art for ages, yet he seems better than ever here (perhaps some of the credit belongs to inker Dexter Vines?). And while some authors simply become parodies of themselves with age, Priest seems content to satirize everything (himself included).

Although I would be happy to see Priest & Bright continue to tell Quantum & Woody stories beyond this limited series, frankly I'd be content simply to see Priest & Bright at work somewhere in this medium. These jokers are as good as they've ever been, yet they've created barely any comics in the last decade! Comics industry: go stand in the corner and think about what you've done, then offer them all the money in the bank before they drift away again!

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