Friday, March 20, 2015

"Not falling for that. I invented that." More thoughts on Q2: The Return of Quantum & Woody

The 5-issue series Q2: The Return of Quantum & Woody by Priest & Mark Bright has come and gone with very little comment. Perhaps that's to be expected - Valiant Comics have always been in direct competition with the big two super hero publishers, but never with the same "heat" behind their titles. The day may come when characters such as X-O Manowar and Ninjak have name recognition with the man-on-the-street, but that time has not yet arrived.

As you may or may not know, this series came about after the newly-revived Valiant began creating new Quantum & Woody comic books, but without the input of Priest & Bright, the men who had (up until then) been the minds, bodies and blood creating the series. As I noted in my review of issue #1, it's tempting to see Q2's use of a new Quantum & Woody team as an effort by Priest & Bright to tweak Valiant's nose for hiring new creators to reboot their creation. As the series progressed, that "tweaking" became much more pronounced, with Woody at one point lamenting, "A new 'Quantum and Woody,' only with other people? Whose stupid idea was that?!" In that moment, Priest & Bright are essentially speaking for fans such as myself, people who were not interested in Quantum & Woody so much as a piece of corporate intellectual property, but as something personal which sprang from Priest & Bright's souls. It is perhaps also noteworthy that Q2's "new" Quantum & Woody are a pair of Caucasians - just like the creators of the new Valiant series.

At the same time, Q2 refuses to entirely give way to fandom's wish fulfillment. Rather than pick up the series where they left it 14 years earlier, Priest & Bright allowed Quantum & Woody to age in real time, leaving them as middle-aged men. Woody wants to move on with his life, while Quantum remains the dedicated hero, despite having suffered injuries which have left him crippled. There's a scene in the second issue which I'm tempted to psychoanalyze as being telling of Priest's attitude to revisiting the series: Woody is trying to perform his music to a disinterested audience who only want to hear him play his one hit song. Is that how Priest feels? He's been summoned out of a self-inflicted comic book retirement just to play his "hit song" one more time. Even though that "song" was technically left unfinished (the Xanadu of super hero comics!), Priest's plot in Q2 suggests he's not very interested in playing back the same familiar jokes. He remains a writer bursting with ideas he wants to share, but almost perpetually unable to find patrons willing to let him compose his thoughts and find his audience. While Priest & Bright's Quantum & Woody has always featured much to be said about race, here Priest introduces transgender issues, finding potential for both comedy & pathos, just as he did before with race.

As I neared the end of the story - where Eric & Woody are in a race against time yet still unable to cooperate for even a few minutes - I began to get a little misty-eyed. And I truly admire Priest's choice to omit showing the duo "klang" their armbands, a moment which had been built-up to as epic, yet dismissed by Priest with the words, "Doesn't it suck that we didn't show it?" I am not certain what I wanted from Q2: The Return of Quantum & Woody. The greatest hits? A few Vincent Van Goat jokes? No, I think what I wanted most of all was for this comic book to exist. And it does. Priest? Comics still need you.

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