The weekly gathering of top comic books for August 7th, 2013!
Book of the week: Quantum & Woody #2
Valiant Entertainment’s reboot of the franchise that Christopher Priest built continues to deliver with over the top action, comedy, and one of the most awkward alliances in comics. Writer James Asmus, artist Tom Fowler and colorist Jordie Bellaire have managed to strike the right tone to capture the essence of this property while adding their own spin on it for a new century. In this incarnation, Quantum (or Eric Henderson) and Woody are combative foster brothers seeking to get to the bottom of their father’s murder and ultimately avenge him. Unfortunately, their father was a scientist working for the “typically evil corporation”, Quantum Laboratories, which is under the thumb of the even worse group, the “E.R.A.” They’ve stumbled upon their father’s final creation and been caught in one of those comic book style freak accidents.
This second issue continues along the same vein as the first. Eric and Woody fight among each other just as often as they do against any antagonist. They find themselves buck naked and bubbling with energy powers while surrounded by a squad of cops, led by the aggressive detective Cejudo. Having both attempted to don the lab’s only safety suit, each brother apparently survived by absorbing half the energy while being left with a bracelet on one wrist that makes their abilities more stable with a click. They manage to escape the police and sneak back to their father’s house and begin attempting to figure out how they’re going to solve the mystery. The costumed identity of Quantum is born, although Woody quickly decides against a spandex attire. Fowler’s art and Bellaire’s job do a good job of showing how the brothers’ energy powers are different from each other, and excel at facial reactions and physical comedy. The dialogue by Asmus remains as hilarious and fast paced as ever, with Eric playing the more efficient straight man to Woody’s impulsive zaniness.
There are moments of tenderness to the duo, which helps keep the comedy grounded and the work from losing all credibility. If anything, the two represent a non-traditional family (an African-American single parent household with a white foster child) which contains a lot of strife and chaos but at the end of the day unite when things get serious enough. Some central antagonists are introduced in this issue and they prove to be just as extremely odd as the brothers are. It could be said that their schtick relies on some ethnic stereotypes, such as a hulking Russian thug who talks “pigeon English” or two Asian tycoon twins, which is a shame as the brothers themselves work hard to avoid such stereotypes. Much like with Wolverine, the infamous “goat” of the series continues to have the ability to appear on covers of comics that it doesn’t appear in.
Old fans of the 90’s series as well as new fans of the creators seeking a good buddy action/comedy series will continue to be pleased. Between this and “Archer & Armstrong”, Valiant Entertainment are now two-for-two in regards to such stories. More comics should be as fun as this.
Honorable Marvel mentions:
Avengers A.I. #2: Or, “Hank Pym & the Robot Avengers” if the title wished to be more accurate (or blunt). With a billion dollar plus film franchise in the books, Marvel Comics are stretching their Avengers books as thin as they stretched the X-Men in the 90’s, and this latest spin-off from “Age of Ultron” crossover marches on. In defeating Ultron, Pym accidentally unleashed a new artificial intelligence into cyberspace which is now causing problems around the world. In the last issue, Pym led his team of robot heroes (Vision, Victor Mancha, and one of Dr. Doom’s “Doombots”) in saving a hospital from controlled military drones. In this one, the new evil A.I. (calling itself “Dimitrios”) uploads itself into one of Iron Man’s spare armors (a throwback from ’98) and uniting with some other irritated androids (such as one 1970’s era life model decoy) to cause more trouble. Yet another giant prototype Sentinel from “top secret government land” is launched at Washington, D.C. and the robot Avengers have to scramble. In the meanwhile, the team meets up with a new android heroine in Alexis who seems to have no memory of who or what she is, and the squad is still being chased by SHIELD agent Monica Chang, who investigates technology based crimes. Sam Humphries channels the right voices for the characters while Andre Lima Araujo’s art seems to be not too many shades removed from that of Khoi Pham, matched well by colors by Frank D’Armata. While not one of Marvel Comics’ best titles along the levels of “Daredevil”, it does grapple with the topic of whether robots are individuals along similar manners as many science fiction works. It could remind some readers of Rick Remender’s last arc on “Secret Avengers” which also touched on such themes.
Iron Man #14: Kieron Gillen and “artist” Greg Land continue with their cosmic caper revolving around Tony Stark, Death’s Head and the maniacal recorder robot 451. All three are inside the giant space-armor “Godkiller” which is intended as a deterrent to the risk of giant space-gods destroying the Earth. To this end, 451 has manipulated Tony’s life since he was literally “in utero” to pilot the mountain size mech, regardless of consequences like destroying worlds or taking control of giant mercenaries. Another planet gets blown up at random during this arc, and this issue seemed to be a bit of a middle chapter onto grander things. Gillen has taken some risks in expanding on Stark’s origin to bring in some space themes, but this issue sees that angle risk being stretched too far.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2: Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s surprise hit of a Spider-Man spin off continues with its zany take on the life of some C-list super villains. Boomerang, Shocker, Speed-Demon, Overdrive, and the new lady Beetle continue to get caught up in all sorts of hilarious hyjinks such as robbing a chic restaurant, dealing with annoying lawyers and tedious super-villain meetings. Fred Myers/Boomerang continues to serve as the lead for this series and offer his point of view for the reader. Beneath the comedy, Spider-Man’s first masked menace, the Chameleon continues to weave himself in as the antagonist of a book about costumed crooks. Yet the strength of the series is about well paced comedic art and some cracking dialogue, which shines through just as well with this second issue as it had with the first. Fans of books such as “Hawkeye” or even “Quantum & Woody” would do well to add this to their pull list.
Superior Spider-Man #15: Writer Dan Slott and artist Humbert Ramos (alongside inker Victor Olazaba and colorist Edgar Delgado) continue on their era of Dr. Octopus possessing the body of Spider-Man and using it to launch his own oppressive war on crime. After using giant spider-robots and a small army of costumed thugs to destroy Kingpin’s “Shadowland” base to the cheers of random pedestrians, he seeks to ensure his success. While Fisk used a hapless decoy to fake his death, the latest Hobgoblin (Phil Ulrich) didn’t fare as well. He’s now running scared from both the newer, deadlier Spider-Man as well as Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin who enforces his super villain “copyrights” very harshly. Slott also dusts off 2001 era “Iron Man” villain Ty Stone who has been a supporting villain for a long time who seeks to exact his revenge on Ulrich. To this end the “superior” Spider-Man takes a back seat in his own book as interesting things happen around him, which is probably why this issue works so well. While Mary Jane seems to have forgotten living through clones, Skrulls, or Chameleons as any explanation to the odd behavior of “Peter”, Carlie Cooper and police captain Yuri Watanabe seek to investigate this “new” Spider-Man on their own. The Green Goblin continues to scheme on the side and this issue does a great job of pulling together some long festering subplots for exciting results. Where it fails is in forgetting that MJ was the genre savvy former wife of Marvel’s best known superhero and instead often casting her as a clueless damsel to make Cooper look smarter, or by having Ock seem “superior” merely because the entire narrative shifts in his favor regardless of his antics. The same police and civilians who considered Spider-Man (and many other heroes) monsters if they broke a window stopping a mugging now cheer when “superior” Spidey demolishes several city blocks with more arms than small countries, all in service to the story. Yet, this issue highlights the positives of Slott’s era as head Spider-writer, and Ramos’ art is as energetic as ever.