By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Valiant Effort, my look at the Valiant Comics universe. The rules are simple, it's like Thunderdome, "two men enter", "one man leaves." I'm kidding, it's not like that at all. I take one of the current Valiant Comics series, and recommend you read it based on other pieces of media you might enjoy, whether it be a book, movie, TV show, or comic series. This week we'll be looking at Valiant's other comedy super duo, Quantum & Woody, along with their more stoic immortal, the Eternal Warrior.
Quantum & Woody is the story of two brothers, Eric Henderson and Woodrow Van Chelton, the two have had a huge falling out over the years but are reluctantly reunited by the untimely death of their father. The brothers are polar opposites with Eric being a responsible, upstanding, military man, while Woodrow (Woody) is a shady, fast talking, grifter. The brothers team-up and must put aside their differences long enough to investigate their father's death. Their investigation leads them to the lab their father worked in, but while they're searching for clues the lab explodes and the brothers find it has left them with super powers, but also the prime suspects in their father's murder. Eric and Woody end up on the run to prove their innocence in their father's murder and try become real heroes along the way. A huge part of Quantum & Woody ends up being the interplay between Eric's straight man, to Woody's loose cannon. So you'll like Quantum & Woody if you like Lethal Weapon.
It's hard to believe for some of us, but the Richard Donner directed buddy cop flick is coming up on 30. Lethal Weapon stars Danny Glover as LAPD Homicide Sergeant Roger Murtaugh and Mel Gibson as LAPD Narcotics Sergeant Martin Riggs. The two are reluctantly paired when Riggs borderline suicidal behavior sends him to the Homicide Unit. The two unlikely partners end up investigating the death of a friend's daughter leading them into a series of chases, explosions, and shoot outs on their path to take down a shady drug dealing operation. The manic cop movie was so popular it spawned three sequels of varying quality. Today the movie is very much a product of the time, (the 80's: just look at Gibson's mullet) but Lethal Weapon was a bonafide success and is generally regarded as some of both Gibson and Glovers' best work.
The connection to Quantum & Woody is kind of immediate with the level headed Quantum having a similar personality and skin color as Glovers' Roger Murtaugh, while Woody isn't as manic as Gibson's Riggs, he is the wild card of the duo and is good for a crazy longshot maneuver. If you asked me to explain Quantum & Woody to someone who didn't know a thing about comics, I would basically tell them Lethal Weapon with superpowers. Gibson's manic performance as Martin Riggs reminded me of another nearly crazed character. So you'll like Quantum & Woody if you like Deadpool.
Marvel's merc with a mouth has been a polarizing figure in comics for the last twenty three years. Originally created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza in New Mutants as Marvels answer to Deathstroke, Deadpool wasn't Marvel's most innovative creation. While his personality was originally fairly straight, writer Joe Kelly would evolve the character into the fourth wall breaking, taco eating, wise-cracker for hire. Diagnosed with incurable cancer, Deadpool opted to be experimented on in the Weapon X program. While the program was able to give him a super human healing ability, it also gave his cancer the healing ability as well, resulting in intense scaring all over his body leaving him with a questionable mental state.
With his incredible healing factor, insane fighting style, and sometimes teleporting, Deadpool has faced off against anything and everything the Marvel universe can throw at him, including vampires, the Hulk, a living moon, and reanimated zombie presidents. Deadpool has waffled between hero and villain, but has mainly stayed in the game for the money and the ladies. Deadpool's mix of over the top action intercut with comedy interludes, mirrors the sensibilities of Quantum & Woody. While Deadpool has two voices in his head that keep the dialog going, the natural two-man comedy team of Quantum and Woody feels like a modern day Abbott and Costello act. Quantum's role as the upstanding citizen often leads to him being on the wrong side of Woody's shenanigans. From evil collectives dedicated to Thomas Edison, clown monsters, or killer goats, Quantum & Woody and Deadpool share in absurd action.
While I wouldn't say that Quantum & Woody is straight up slapstick comedy, humor is a major part of what makes the book special. I'd say that Quantum & Woody is one part slapstick and one part social commentary, so you'll like Quantum & Woody if you like Blazing Saddles.
I'm really reaching back for this one, but I already used mismatched comedies in my Archer & Armstrong edition, so we're going to use one of my favorite comedies of all time. The 1974 western tells the story of former slave and railroad worker Bart played by Cleavon Little, who's tasked by crooked Governor Le Pedomane to become Sheriff of the small town of Rock Ridge. It's the Governor's hope that the sight of a black Sheriff will drive off the town's residents, leaving him free to build a railroad through the town. Sheriff Bart ends up finding a drunken gunman in Gene Wilder and the two rally the citizens to fight back against the Governor and his henchmen. Mel Brookes comedy was audacious for the time with almost causal use of the N-word, jokes about interracial relationships, and social commentary on minority treatment.
One of the central themes in Quantum & Woody is the interplay between the Black Quantum and White Woody. Brookes' movie and Valiant's interracial brothers share similarities with their use of humor through social commentary, with jokes regularly being made at the expense of people you'd see on Fox News, racist militias, and crooked PMCs. The banter between the Quantum & Woody also echo's some my favorite parts of Blazing Saddles with Woody's use of racist tropes as distractions or one liners feel like they could've come right from Brookes himself. Ultimately a central theme of both is showing what a farce racism is and how cooperation can overcome adversity.
Shifting gears away from comedy, we have a very stark contrast with Eternal Warrior. Gilad Anni-Padda was one of Summeria's finest warriors and also from one of its most talented families. When Gilad and his brothers were tasked with seeking out a mystical object called "The Boon", they gladly accepted. The brothers succeeded in their task, however upon activating the Boon, Summeria was decimated, with all but two of the cities occupant's dead leaving Gilad and his brother Aram as immortals. While Aram is content to drink his way through eternity, Gilad is conscripted to serve the Earth by acting as the protector of Geomancers, who act as a conduit for the planet. So you'll like Eternal Warrior if you like Highlander.
The 1985 fantasy adventure starring Christopher Lambert, tells the story of immortals who walk the Earth posing as humans. These immortals are able to seek each other out via ESP and are prophesied to fight in a battle at the end of time called the "Game" the winner of which receives the "Prize". Lambert plays immortal, Connor MacLeod, who once was a warrior of the Scottish Highlands, but has since taken up residence in New York. MacLeod is being hunted by another immortal, Clancy Brown's Kurgan, who wants the "Prize" for himself. Highlander was a huge success at the time, spawning four sequels, a live action TV series, a cartoon series, and an anime movie. So with all that being said, it's clear as day why you'd like Eternal Warrior if you like Highlander. Eternal Warrior's themes of immortals doing battle with one another go right along with his first appearance in Archer & Armstrong. In fact the first arc of Eternal Warrior sees him crossing paths with another immortal seeking his help. Eternal Warrior also finds itself across the ages, retelling Gilad's past, present, and future in various parts of the world, not unlike Highlanders flashbacks to the Scottish Highlands.
Archer and Armstrong is where Gilad makes his first appearance in the Valiant universe. In fact Gilad show's up in quite a few books, so you'll like Eternal Warrior, if you like Wolverine.
The hardest working comic character in the Marvel universe, Wolverine currently has two solo books, appears in multiple X-Men and Avenger titles, and is currently one of the stars of the Days of Future Past movie. Created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita Sr. in 1974 and popularized by Chris Claremont in his legendary run of Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine has been a force to reckon with ever since. With his mutant healing factor, enhanced senses, and indestructible adamantium skeleton, Wolverine has been almost everywhere and fought everyone. Born in the 1880's as James Howlett, a sickly child of a wealthy land owner in Alberta Canada. After the traumatic death of his parents kick started his mutation he fled to the wilderness.
He emerged after years of seclusion as "Logan" and joined the Canadian military where he would fight in both World Wars, and would eventually be conscripted into the Weapon X program that gave him his indestructible skeleton. Again we touch on theme of immortality, Wolverine isn't quite immortal, but he's pretty close. Both Wolverine and Gilad are seasoned warriors, with heavy hearts for all the death and bloodshed they've caused. They both show up in a ton of books too, with Gilad making cameo's in Archer & Armstrong, X-O Manowar, and a starring role in Unity.
All this talk of immortals got my thinking not only about heroes like Wolverine and Connor MacLeod, but villains as well and the comics they star in. So you'll like Eternal Warrior if you like Batman.
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, Batman is one of the most beloved characters in comics. With his parents killed by a common criminal, a young Bruce Wayne was orphaned and swore to avenge his parents. Bruce would train for many years, in many disciplines to become not only one of the world's finest warriors, but its greatest detective as well. As Batman he dispenses justice to those who would harm the innocent citizens of Gotham City, while battling one of comics' most colorful rouges galleries. What got me thinking about Batman in particular was his semi-immortal nemesis Ra's al Ghul. The mastermind villain and global terrorist is incredibly intelligent and has lived for somewhere between 500 and 600 years. Ghul's longevity being attributed to his discovery of mystical Lazarus Pits, which heals the body of a subject, but can drive them insane in the process. With an immense knowledge of science, magic, and combat, Ghul is formidable on his own but is also supported by The League of Assassins/Shadows, his global network of agents to help further his agenda.
The connection to Eternal Warrior should be immediately apparent, but there are also some more subtle reasons that I think you'd like Eternal Warrior if you like Batman and Ra's al Ghul. First off, both Gilad and Batman are masters of any weapon they can pick up, swords, spears, axes, staffs. If you can use it to bludgeon someone these two can not only use it, but use it well. Both are master strategists with years of experience and battles under their belts. Perhaps the greatest similarity is they both occupy similar roles on their respective super-teams, the Justice League and Unity.
That's it for this round of Valiant titles, we've only got two more to go, with Shadowman and Unity. I know Valiant had its first issue of Rai released last month, but I think it needs some time. The first trade of Eternal Warrior is available for $9.99 and the second trade is due in July. If you'd like more Eternal Warrior, the first trade of Unity is out as well, and he's also featured prominently in the second story arc of Archer & Armstrong, which was also just released in a handsome hardcover. As for Quantum & Woody the first two story arcs have been released in trade paperback with a third on the way in September. The full runs of both series are currently available on Comixology as well.
I'd also be remiss, if I didn't mention the original Christopher Priest run of Quantum and Woody which is funny, fantastic, and available on Comixology. If you have any suggestions for media related to any of the Valiant titles please let me know in the comments. I'd also like suggestions on some smaller press books that I might be able to highlight when I'm done with series of articles. If you missed the first two Valiant Effort articles, you can find them here, and here.
You can check out my other regular columns, Live(ish) From The Games Shop, where I look at the weeks new video game releases, and Typing on The Dead: Bleeding Cool's Walking Dead recap. I also do comics and game coverage throughout the week that you can find out by following me on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from New Jersey's coast who's getting too old for this expletive. If you'd like to relive that meme contact him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis