Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Tom Fowler
Cover by Ryan Sook, Tom Fowler, & Rian Hughes
Size: 32 pages
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a chance to write about Tom Fowler’s work in a Pick of the Week review before. That’s about to be rectified in a big way. I’ve made it no secret that I think Tom is one of the best artists in comics today. He’s a great big, witty, surly, cartoonist genius, and not nearly enough people know that. Comic book professionals know it, and I’ve heard it from many of them over the years, but for whatever reason, a lot of readers just don’t know. Well, this is your chance.
When it was announced that Tom Fowler was the artist on the ongoing Quantum and Woody series, I was thrilled, despite not knowing anything about the property, but knowing that the art and storytelling would be spot on. If you’ve ever seen any of Fowler’s sketches, you’ll see a slightly skewed, but ultimately sweet wit going on, in the middle of what some might call a cartoony style. I tend to think of it more as a rubbery reality, where things are just a bit more flexible, but the storytelling and the fundamentals of the art is incredibly tight. Quantum and Woody is kind of perfect for the artwork because it’s both rooted in a realistic world, but also concerned with crazy sci-fi science. On top of that, it’s actually funny. The first issue was good, but it was in this second issue where the team got the business of set up out of the way, and got to focus on letting things get a lot more wacky. From the (constant) brotherly bickering of our titular protagonists, to the silly supervillains that show up near the end, the art has it covered, working both sides of the formula. This was the Tom Fowler work I was hoping for, and I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Rounding out the package is Jordie Bellaire on colors, and if the artist isn’t painting the work himself, this is the next best thing. In a very short amount of time, you’ve seen Bellaire’s name on more and more projects, and when you see that name, it’s an indication that the people in charge actually care what about how the comic book is going to turn out. She’s a wonderful artist in her own right, and can deliver several styles, as is evidenced this week by her diverse color work on both Quantum and Woody, as well as an entirely different style on The Manhattan Projects. In this one, she’s using tasteful palettes for each scene, and there’s just never too much, which works as a way to keep the images grounded when they need to be. The coloring is both effective and tasteful, and a perfect compliment to the line work.
Finally, we can talk about the stellar work James Asmus is doing setting up what is, to me, a new world, while also writing a script that is both supposed to be funny, and is actually funny? You’d think that would be a lot easier than I’m making it sound, but it doesn’t happen often enough in comics. What you have here are two brothers, one white, one black, and they have nothing in common, other than their dead father. But while they bicker all the time, they clearly have a common bond, and even a common goal. There are just a couple moments of heart that make all the fighting bearable. I only say that because it really does remind me of fighting with my brother, and yes, I’m the uptight one. At the same time, this set up allows Asmus to pick away at some social taboos and areas of discomfort, race being first and foremost. It’s tricky, to be sure, but it’s nice to read a book that has a little bit of a social and political edge to it, without feeling like you’re talking about something you shouldn’t. In that way, having the white troubled kid adopted by the black family turns a bunch of our accepted notions on their heads a bit. I’m not saying it’s going to win an award for its depiction of diversity, but it’s nice that it’s part of the conversation, because otherwise, I’m not what the point would be. Seeing these kinds of conversations on TV, or a movie isn’t that unusual, but lately, in mainstream comics, it strikes me as a bit rare, which is interesting, because at one time, comics were trailblazers. Now, maybe there’s too much at stake. There’s a lot going on here in the background, and unless you’re completely ignorant to the current cultural conversation on race, a writer is going to be very aware of what he is and isn’t saying. Asmus does a nice job of riding a line by saying something subtly interesting, and managing to still keep it light and entertaining.
The first issue of this series had a lot of work to do before the story could get moving, and this issue, they’ve finally got the highway laid out in front of them, and the characters are on their way. We know who our main players are, but there’s clearly a lot more to uncover, and if nothing else, the tone of this book is completely different from what’s going on in other comics I’m ready right now. It’s similar, and it’s familiar, but still different enough to make it interesting. Obviously, the craft and quality is in place for a nice long story, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
This book would be really fun to write.