by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
We live in a world torn between postmodernism and romanticism. We’re just as likely to encounter arguments based on The Death of the Author as we are those based in auteur theory. That we have different critical lenses at our disposal may not seem all that remarkable, but I’d argue that these two aesthetics have completely different opinions on what art is and how we consume it. Does art facilitate some kind of transfer of ideas between the creator and the audience, or is it simply a mirror that audiences use to reflect themselves? As mutually exclusive as those options appear, Quantum and Woody 4 seems to exist in a space between, riffing on classic tropes and even explicit references while still crafting a character all its own.
Obviously, a great deal of that character comes from Kano’s itinerantly irreverent art. His expressions are priceless, but I’m most amused by visual gags that skip any kind of verisimilitude to just give us the gist of what’s going on.
Who knows what those pellets you feed goats at a petting zoo are called — “Goat Food” communicates exactly what we need to know about that brandless bag in the background. Add to that an overflowing dog bowl that the goat is apparently filling itself, and you have an image that doesn’t make a ton of literal sense, but conveys such a precise sentiment to us, it’s absurdity somehow makes it more legible.
Writer Daniel Kibblesmith gets in on this kind of irreverent action, too. I could go on all day about his dialogue, but I was particularly charmed by Kibblesmith’s scene cards/commentary. Capturing that great “idea over execution” aesthetic, Kibblesmith offers us “whatever the biggest hip-hop anthem at whatever time you’re reading this” as entrance music — the specifics don’t matter, so long as we recognize the sentiment of the moment.
But Kibblesmith can be more precise with his references when he means to be. Just look at how he drops this Arrested Development joke in to punctuate a straightforward visual gag:
The joke works even if you’ve never seen Arrested Development, but the specificity of the “Ron Howard voice” might be somewhat baffling. It orients this issue in time and space (and influence) in a way that other moments specifically avoid, creating a unique tension between derivativeness and originality, vagueness and specificity. It carves out a paradoxical middle ground between those extremes, allowing the issue to be whatever it needs to be in the moment in order to land its jokes. The result is an idiosyncratic — but inarguably funny — issue.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?