Retro Trade Review: Quantum & Woody Vol. 2: Switch By Priest & Bright For Valiant

<div>Retro Trade Review: Quantum & Woody Vol. 2: Switch By Priest & Bright For Valiant</div>

Contains Quantum and Woody Vol. 1 #8-13, Wizard: The Comics Magazine #87, The Goat #1 (January – June 1998)

<div>Retro Trade Review: Quantum & Woody Vol. 2: Switch By Priest & Bright For Valiant</div>

Written by Christopher Priest

Co-plotted by MD Bright (#8, 10, 13, Wizard #87)

Pencilled by MD Bright (#8, 10-13, Wizard #87), Kevin Kobasick (#9), Keith Giffen (The Goat #1), Charlie Adlard (The Goat #1)

Inked by Greg Adams (#8, 10-13, Wizard #87), Alex Maleev (#9), Keith Williams (#10-11), Claude St. Aubin (The Goat #1)

Coloured by Atomic Paintbrush

Spoilers from twenty-three years ago

I enjoyed the first Quantum and Woody trade about as much as I’d expected to.  I love Christopher Priest’s writing, but I also knew that the comic would be a product of its time, full of dated pop culture references and a 90s mentality.

Eric (Quantum) and Woody are interesting characters.  Eric has military training, a sharp mind, and a real desire to do good in the world.  Woody is a slacker moron, who wants to do good as well, but whose extreme ADHD makes it difficult to remain focused on that goal for long.  The two old friends are stuck together because they each wear a single control band – a large wristband, that if not ‘klanged’ together every twenty-four hours, will result in the two dematerializing.  The bands also give them a semblance of super powers, so they have decided to work as heroes.

I’m hoping that this volume digs into some of the more interesting elements of the first trade that didn’t get fully explored.  Eric harbors a lot of resentment for the fact that Woody left him when they were kids without saying goodbye, and believes that at least some of it was racial (Eric is black).

This book features the following characters:

Villains:

  • 8-Ball (#10)
  • Kenny (#11)
  • Terrence Magnum (#13)
  • Citadel (Goat #1)
  • Dr. David Warrant (#1, 6-7)
  • Frank Marshal (#2-3)

Guest Stars

  • Parker (Troublemakers; #9)
  • Jane (Troublemakers; #9)
  • Christine Helvin (Troublemakers; #9)
  • Zach (Troublemakers; #9)
  • Dr. Helvin (#9, 11)

Supporting Characters:

  • Dr. David Warrant (#8-9, 13
  • Lucy (Woody’s mom; #9)
  • Willie Mae (#9, 11)
  • Tammy Fischer (Woody’s girlfriend; #9, 11)
  • Tempest Sheridan (FBI; #10, Goat #1)
  • Taylor 88 (aka “Bat” Man; #11, 13)
  • Vincent Van Goat (#11, 13, Goat #1)
  • Master Antanku (#12)
  • Joe Tomorrow (#12, Goat #1)
  • Amy Fishbein (#13)
  • Holly Williams (#13, Goat #1)
  • X19 (Goat #1)
  • Eloise Warrant (#6-7)

Let’s see what happened in the comics, with some commentary as I go:

  • It would appear that Woody has gotten involved in a cartoon version of his and Eric’s exploits, modelled loosely after the Batman and Robin TV show, but with the big woodchuck, the goat, and a pair of lesbians who hang out with them.  Eric is not impressed.  Later, Eric wants Woody to come help with a hostage situation, but Woody doesn’t want to.  Eric leaves without him, ordering him to follow.  Some extremists have taken hostages in the middle of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, threatening to blow it up, and stopping traffic each way.  Quantum swims to a tunnel access, fighting off the cops that are there, while Woody looks for his uniform (the goat ate one of his boots).  Eric takes out some of the terrorists, and tells the hostages to run.  Woody arrives at the entrance to the tunnel, and the cops (they look more like military, but from another country) point their guns at him, scaring the hostages as they emerge.  Eric is interrogating one of the terrorists to learn about the bomb in the van, when Woody joins him and pulls his gun on a woman he believes to be a plant.  It turns out she’s a cop, and an older woman pulls a gun on him.  Eric saves him, but one last terrorist starts shooting at everyone, including the van with the bomb in it.  Woody shoots him with paintballs when he’s reloading, and then knocks him out.  Eric gets into the booby-trapped van, and sees he’s only got about seven minutes before it blows.  David Warrant appears, and their conversation helps explain the “cheat book” Eric is always consulting for information on things like defusing fertilizer bombs in vans.  Woody decides it might be best to drive the van out of the tunnel in case it does blow, and starts heading for the river, although he stops for a pretzel.  While Woody and Warrant talk about the cartoon, Eric keeps working on stopping the bomb, but it’s getting tight.  Just as Woody reaches the river, he uses his control band to push Eric and Warrant out; the van explodes just as it drives off a pier.
  • Much of issue nine shows flashbacks to Woody’s youth.  It opens with him taking his mother, who’s OD’ed, to a hospital on the subway.  Next he goes to see her friend, Tammy, where she performs in peep shows.  She gives him some money, since Woody doesn’t feel safe going home with his mom’s boyfriend around.  He goes to a pawnshop to look at a guitar he wants, and gets rousted from every place he tries sleeping.  Finally, he talks the nurse into letting him sleep on the floor of the hospital, next to his mom.  In the present, the children known as the Troublemakers (a series I’ve never read) who appear to all have powers and live in a Project: Pegasus type place called Zeus: Control, watch as Quantum and Warrant bring the injured Woody there.  The kids aren’t supposed to be spying over the security system, but they are intrigued by Quantum’s whole look.  Eric is not happy that he’s not allowed to go with Woody, while Warrant is (he has security clearance).  Eric enters the washroom, and pulls a gizmo out of his suit to disable the cameras there.  When the systems short out, it causes one of the Troublemakers to lose control of her chaos field, leading to more destruction.  Some suit comes to get the oldest Troublemaker, Christine, because her father, the doctor, wants her help.  The other three decide they need to track down and stop Quantum.  In the past, we see that Woody and Tammy had to take his mom to a hospital after another OD.  As the Troublemaker kids creep through some tunnels, they are unaware of the fact that Eric is behind them.  In another flashback, an older Woody was upset to find that the guitar he bought was back in the pawn shop – his mom pawned it.  When he went home to confront her, he found her dead.  Doctor Helvin gets Christine to help Woody by using her powers over energy.  We see Woody lay flowers on his mom’s grave; later, he discovered that his father had been sending them cheques that Lucy never cashed out of pride.  As Christine uses her powers, she worries that she’s going to mess up.  She thinks she can fix things, so long as her concentration is kept.  Eric scares the other Troublemakers, causing them all to fall into the lab (which has a cavernous ceiling I guess).  As they all fall into one another, Woody comes to, but it appears that he and Eric have switched bodies.
  • Wizard #76 had a three-page strip showing a pretty typical mission for Quantum and Woody, where Woody screws up, but things turn out okay in the end.
  • A woman tries to talk down some bank robbers who are holding her hostage by showing them pictures of her children.  Quantum and Woody (who have switched bodies) jump into their car, and Woody (in Eric’s body) peels out.  The woman has pulled a gun on the bank robbers, and is getting ready to try to stop them when Woody pulls up.  She thinks Eric and Woody are dating, and that upsets Woody a lot.  She gets in the car, pushing Woody out of the driver’s seat, and goes after the robbers, who are escaping in a big square truck.  As they catch up to the truck, two of the robbers drive motorcycles out the back.  Woody blasts one, and grabs the guy off the other, while Eric (in Woody’s body) flies after the truck.  They end up catching everyone, and then learning that the woman is named Tempest Sheridan, and that she’s an FBI agent.  Eric pulls Woody away from hitting on her.  They enter a public washroom together, and we learn that since they switched bodies, they haven’t relieved themselves out of a fear of touching one another’s genitals.  Finally, they decide that they should help each other urinate, so they are only touching their own junk (although not with their own hands), and are embarrassed when someone walks in on them.  In the end, Eric does his business and walks out.  Later, while Eric tries to figure out how to separate them, Woody plays guitar at a volume so loud it smashes the screens on Eric’s computers.  Later, Woody freaks out when he sees that Eric got his hair cut, so he goes to a “hair club” and comes back with long cornrow extensions.  They have an awkward conversation on a stakeout, but then Eric spies 8-Ball, a criminal he’s been looking for, and swings into action.  He ends up getting held at gunpoint by 8-Ball’s crew, as does Woody.  They’re chained up in 8-Ball’s den, and while Eric tries to intimidate him, Woody keeps interrupting.  Finally, Woody says, “Four squares forever canny.”  That was some kind of code, so our heroes get set free; later, Woody explains that he was telling 8-Ball that he has protection from that gang.  Woody looks for Vincent the goat, and Eric gets frustrated that they haven’t switched bodies yet.
  • Issue eleven is a complicated one, jumping around between different flashbacks.  Woody, in Eric’s body, is placing flowers and candles at a streetlight in tribute to someone.  Willie Mae tells him to leave.  In a flashback, we see the first time that Woody met Tammy, a sex worker who worked for a man named Kenny.  They hit it off when she found him sitting on her corner, and traded some hamburgers for her spot.  She made him wait for three hours, and he noticed that she had a black eye.  They sat down and talked, and Woody told her how his mother was on drugs and her boyfriend would try to touch him when he was drunk.  Woody tries to explain to Willie Mae that he’s actually Woody.  Eric, meanwhile, in Woody’s body, talks to Dr. Helvin, who doesn’t have any idea how to help him and Eric; she suggests he go to the military instead.  He looks at his old medals, and looks pensive.  Eric remembers being rejected at West Point because, despite his top grades, they already had enough Black candidates to fill their quota.  Woody continues to light candles for Tammy, and remembers how they were together, and he was going to get money from his father so they could get away from Kenny together.  He even went to see his father, but he wasn’t in his office.  He left him a note and left, and just missed Eric, who was also visiting, hidden behind the holographic projection screen.  Eric saw Woody’s note and assumed it was for him, and ripped it up.  Later, Eric got in trouble for being out of uniform at his army base, because Woody stole his hat from their dads’ office, and was made to wash dishes.  Some white students approached him and fought him, because one of them was dropped from West Point to make space for Eric, after his father made some phone calls.  As they fought, Eric clutched his chest and collapsed.  At his vigil, Woody says he wishes that Kenny was dead.  He remembers hoping his father would call while he and Tammy packed.  She decided to go back to work for Kenny, and after she left, Eric discovered a camera in her room.  Later, police woke him up by busting into his room.  He saw Tammy lying dead on the street, and Kenny being arrested.  Taylor 88 tries to console Eric, and then Vincent Van Goat turns up, surprising him, and hands him a map.  It’s a fold map, like the ones that the Eternal Warriors (not just Ivar the Timewalker?) use to teleport around.  He uses it to visit Kenny in prison, pulling him through a gateway into a basement or something.  Woody pulls a gun on Kenny, and tells him he’s there because of Tammy.  Kenny makes it clear that someone else killed Tammy, and that he took the fall for that person, who he refers to as a “fat bastid”.  As Woody takes in this information, he clutches his chest and collapses on top of Kenny.
  • Issue twelve continues to explore Woody and Eric’s lives before they got back together at the start of the series.  In 1994 (remember the book came out in 1998), Eric travelled by horse to meet with a man in a desert, asking that he teach him the way of the Black Lion.  The man had him leave his possessions behind, and gave him a lion totem to wear around his neck while he traveled into the mountains on his own.  The man, Master Antanku, went through Eric’s stuff, finding his heart pills, and the note with Woody’s phone number on it that he found three years before.  He called Woody and told him to move on, which infuriated the still-mourning Woody.  We see that Antanku had a car full of lion totems.  As he drove off, a man that looked just like him drove up to take his shift.  As Eric travelled through some woods, he remembered that his heart problems led to his discharge from the military.  A large black lion with red eyes approached Eric, and submitted to him.  The other Master Antanku told him he could stay.  In the present, Eric, in Woody’s body, goes to visit Woody (in his body) in the hospital.  Woody is furious that he didn’t know about Eric’s heart problem, and they fight.  After a cop catches them fighting, they decide to leave the hospital by going out the window.  They go to see Joe Tomorrow, who is no longer a detective because of them, and he’s not happy to see them.  We learn that Woody is in trouble for letting Kenny go free, but they want information to set that right.  As they race across a rooftop, Eric makes it clear that he’s furious with Woody, but will work with him.  They are going to track down Kenny.  In 1996, Eric was still training with the Black Lion people, which meant he had to engage in a fight against a half dozen men, who he beat.  Master Antanku brought him a letter that told him about his father’s death.  Eric felt he had to leave, despite Antanku’s protests; the Black Lion came and bit Eric.  Later, we see him on a plane home.  Woody was painting a nude woman (which was a ruse to look at some nipples) when an attorney came to the door telling him that he was sent by Eric to inform him of his father’s death.  In the present, Joe, Eric, and Woody stand over a body covered by a tarp.  It’s Kenny.  Woody mentions that he isn’t satisfied, because he’s no longer sure that Kenny killed Tammy.  He gets upset that Eric doesn’t believe him, but then Joe tells them that they both have to come in for questioning, since Kenny was found with Woody’s gun.
  • Issue thirteen opens with David Warrant sitting on the moon watching Wheel of Fortune on a television set.  We see a bit of a montage of Young Eric mooning over Amy Fishbein, and Woody teasing him about it.  Taylor 88 is upset with Eric (who is still in Woody’s body) because he’s replacing him as receptionist.  Amy Fishbein arrives at the office, and Woody (who is still in Eric’s body) tells her that Eric (who she thinks she’s talking to) wants to make her their receptionist.  Amy tells him she’s a junior vice-president for a financial group, and then walks into Eric’s office and immediately starts to make out with him, saying she wants to pick up where they left off, also revealing that it was Woody who took her virginity.  Eric keeps trying to convince her of his identity, but can’t even get his holographic wall projection thing to recognize him.  They have to enter their secret lair through Woody’s office.  He keeps trying to explain to her, telling her about their powers, but she treats it all as a joke.  She trips over the goat while trying to leave, and hits her head on the floor, which Taylor sees as his chance to keep his job.  Later, Eric and Woody go to visit Holly, David Warrant’s ex, who talks at length about their switched bodies, and mention that their friend tripped over their goat but didn’t die.  Holly tells them she doesn’t know where Warrant is, and that she thinks their matrixes (matrices?) will reset with time.  More time passes, and Eric and Woody go about their usual morning routine, including ‘clanging’ their armbands.  When Eric goes to get into his car, he doesn’t notice that actually back in his own body.  Cops suspect he’s trying to steal his own car, while Woody lies on his bed watching TV with the goat.  Taylor 88 comes by and tries to intervene, but when he realizes that it’s Eric, not Woody, being arrested, he leaves.  Later, Woody goes to see Eric where he’s being detained, but since Eric hasn’t been paying him his trust fund cheques, he leaves him there.  Back at the office, Taylor puts on one of the spare costumes.  When the door buzzer sounds, he opens it and some guy in a suit, with two heavily armed 90s armored guys comes in, mistaking Taylor for Woody.  He says he’s going to use him to send a message.  When Woody returns, he finds Taylor hanging from the ceiling, dead.  The armored guys attack, and either kill or knock Woody out.  They leave a note on his chest that says “war.”  Eric finally gets bailed out, but he’s surprised to see it’s by the criminal Terrence Magnum, who is the same guy who killed Taylor (I knew he looked familiar).  He gives Quantum his outfit and tells him they are at war.
  • A few extra pages from an earlier edition of this trade show Woody and Taylor meeting at a pawn shop, where they jammed together on musical instruments.  At Taylor’s funeral, Woody feels responsible for bringing him into his world.
  • The Goat got his own one-shot, with art by Keith Giffen and Charlie Adlard.  It starts in a space shuttle, where one of the astronauts is exposed during a spacewalk to a dangerous pathogen.  His colleagues have to cut his umbilical cord and release him so the pathogen doesn’t get onto the ship, but it’s soon made clear that it did, infecting a female astronaut.  Later, she gives birth to a child that is brimming with green energy.  We also see scenes from the life of Tempest Sheridan, the FBI Agent, when she was young, pregnant, and had the opportunity to join the FBI.  She saw a therapist (who looks a bit like Amanda Waller as drawn by Keith Giffen) to decide what to do.  Around the same time, Vincent Van Goat was born.  In the present, the scientists monitoring X19, the child born from that astronaut, need a repair done on their monitors, and call in someone from Tech Service, who is currently working on the systems at Quantum and Woody’s offices.  The tech guy sees Vincent Van Goat, tries to get his papers back from him, and is teleported to the lab.  While the tech guy is there, someone we don’t get to see kills one of the scientists for his lab gear, and moves to kidnap X19, who is so deadly he’s kept in isolation.  Vincent enters the kid’s room though, and when they touch, he teleports him away.  The guy who is there to kidnap him calls in his boss, Elayne, to say the plans have changed.  Tempest is sitting and thinking when she gets called in to work, even though this is a day she always calls in sick on.  When she learns the goat is involved, she takes on the case.  She goes to Quantum and Woody’s, but can’t find the goat.  She gets attacked by some guys in lab suits, and has her clothes blasted off of her.  The goat turns up and lures the men away, then teleports them somewhere.  Tempest grabs a spare Q&W suit and takes their car.  She goes to see Joe Tomorrow, who is now a traffic enforcement officer, and he warns her away from Quantum and Woody, and also explains how the goat is able to travel through space.  Next Tempest goes to see Holly Williams, who explains Vincent’s abilities in excruciating detail, and also suggests that the best place to look for him is back at his home.  She returns to Q&W’s, to find a villainous type named Citadel waiting there for the same reasons.  He’s also looking for X19, but claims that it was government men that tried to kill Tempest before.  He suggests they work together because the thought of X19 being free in the world is very dangerous.  It’s clear that Citadel can also teleport, because as they fight and talk, they go all over the world.  Vincent goes to see Quantum and Woody, who are trapped in glass tubes somewhere.  Citadel and Tempest turn up, and Tempest asks them where they found the goat originally, as she’s trying to find its home.  Citadel assumes that’s where X19 is, and teleports away.  In a rush to catch up with Citadel, Tempest frees only Woody from his tank, and then takes off with Vincent, who teleports her to a number of different places and moments from DC, Marvel, and Valiant comics history before they end up back at Woody’s office.  She talks about how she should have stayed home, and then Vincent teleports her to the place where X19 is – a large field, where he stands surrounded by dead armored suit guys and a lot of dead sheep.  Citadel is there too, waiting for a containment team to join him.  He knows that going near X19 could be fatal, but Vincent goes up to him, and they touch noses.  In a burst of energy, Vincent falls over a cliff and into a river.  Tempest jumps after him, and as they go over a waterfall, the goat teleports them back to Woody’s office.  X19 and Citadel join them; Citadel explains that the boy was cured by touching Vincent (it doesn’t make sense so I’m not going to try to explain it).  As he leaves the boy with her, Citadel gives Tempest a card with an address on it.  Later, Tempest and Vincent watch from the bushes while the child Tempest gave up for adoption celebrates her birthday.
  • This trade ends with a bunch of “deleted scenes” showing things that Priest and Bright wanted to put in the comic but weren’t allowed.  There’s a scene where Young Woody pretends to be black in order to try to see some black girls’ nipples.  In another, from the body switch era, Woody shuts the shower door on Eric’s penis, and then needs to see his own again, so he makes Eric, who is in his body, strip.  When they stand in front of each other to brush their teeth, so Woody will feel like he’s looking in a mirror, their penises touch and he overreacts.  (The implication of these scenes is that Eric is much more endowed than Woody).  There are also panels where Q&W fight Jesus, kill LeAnn Rimes, and Mark Waid.  In a very awkward scene, Eric needs help getting a lightbulb dislodged from Woody’s buttocks.
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I am conflicted about this book.  I really enjoyed it, but think that as a trade, it’s terrible.  This trade opened conventionally enough, at the start of a new storyline, but then introduced a ton of new ideas, told a more or less complete body-swap story, and then ended with Woody being possibly dead, and Eric at war with a villain from the first trade.  After that, we got the Goat one-off, which portrayed Quantum and Woody out of continuity, and that was the end of things.  This series maybe always would have made more sense collected as an omnibus, and that’s it.

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Beyond that, I really fell in love with this title with this trade.  Priest’s writing is all over the place, but that’s partly what I like so much about it.  At one point, he’s writing dick jokes, but on the next page, we get a pretty serious examination of how Eric’s life as a privileged Black man has not prepared him for some of the challenges the world would set in front of him.  We also see how Woody’s difficult upbringing and the challenges he faced as a teen have both stunted his growth, and maybe made him a better man than Eric.

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There are a lot of new ideas in this volume.  I want to know more about the Black Lion (this came out around the same time Priest started writing Black Panther, so that’s curious, but it also reminds me of the Red Lion character in his Deathstroke run).  I also found myself drawn to the supporting cast more, gaining an appreciation for Tempest, and absolutely loving that Amy Fishbein has grown into a much more capable and independent woman than Eric expected.

At the core of this book, both when it’s being funny and when it’s being sad, is the fractured friendship between Eric and Woody.  Maybe it’s a late 90s thing, but neither of them is able to just sit down and discuss why they are upset with each other.  Woody resents Eric’s easy life, and the fact that Eric has control of his finances.  Mostly though, he seems to be angry that Eric doesn’t understand him, despite his making little effort to communicate.  Eric, meanwhile, is still deeply hurt by what he sees as Woody’s abandonment of him back in high school, and sees that as the central rejection in his life.  Eric also sees Woody as child-like now, and has to balance his need to protect him with his desire to punish him.

It’s actually pretty amazing that Priest can bury so much complex character work in this jokey and silly comic, especially in the late 90s, when comics were just starting to come out of a long stretch of stupidity. The ongoing homophobic jokes about Eric and Woody being a couple are a little problematic now, as is Woody’s insistence that all supervillains are gay, but it is in keeping with what was acceptable humour at the time.

MD Bright is pretty great in this comic as well.  I’m currently also reading his Solo Avengers run, and I can see a number of ways in which he improved as an artist.  This is pretty 90s stuff, but it’s clear that he’s playing with and satirizing those tropes (I mean, just look at the modified costume Eric wore when he was in Woody’s body).  His work in this book is very nice, and very clear.  Priest’s writing skips around so much, it’s essential that Bright use little tricks, like the rounded panel borders that show us when we are looking at a flashback, to help us follow the disjointed and fragmented action.

I’m glad I’ve taken the time to finally read these comics.  They help fill in some gaps in Priest’s career for me, and remind me that I should be doing more of these comics on independent publishers as well.

You can check out my Retro Review archives here.

If you’d like to read this trade, follow this link:

Quantum and Woody by Priest & Bright Volume 2: Switch

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