by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
What do your fantasies look like? I’m not trying to ask a dirty question here. When your mind wanders and you start to imagine the ideal form of your life, what does it look like? What form does your imagination take? Are you able to view yourself in your perfect environment, like some sort of omniscient viewer? Are you giving an interview about everything you’ve accomplished? Or are you in your own head, looking out on your perfect life? How you express your fantasy to yourself is as revealing as what you fantasize about. Eliot Rahal and Francis Portela’s Quantum and Woody 7 finds the Henderson brothers trapped in idealized fantasy worlds that embrace tropes of genre and medium in equal measure.
Rahal and Portela are dealing with a lot here. Last time we saw our heroes, they had failed to do the one thing they have to: klang them bracelets together. Meaning that they’ve been catapulted into… some other kind of reality. That’s the baseline. The issue starts at a literal “anything could happen.” And what happens is the Superman origin story.
Now, I’m not s u p e r familiar with Quantum’s actual origin story, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask a modern comic reader to have that kind of familiarity. But Rahal and Portelo are riffing on the one of the most famous — and specific — origins of all time. The reader recognizes the fantasy not because it conflicts with what we know to be true about Quantum, because it matches something else too neatly. I like to think that the very first narration box also helps the reader orient themselves, tonally speaking. “Light years ago” is a nonsense phrase, using a measurement of distance to express time in a way that’s just colloquial enough to sound like something you’d hear during a recess recap in the third grade.
And then there’s Woody, who’s painted as the perpetual winner, instead of the supernatural loser we know him to be. He’s living it up in Las Vegas, where he’s got a girl under each arm and just enough inside info on a boxing match to win big (without, y’know, getting mixed up with the mob or something). What’s more is that Woody is actually seeing a therapist, which has got to be the most healthy and introspective version of this character I’ve ever seen.
This sets the table perfectly for Quantum and Woody to be trapped in a sort of perfect superhero-comic-book world. These are heroes that are known for being fuck-ups, so it doesn’t take long for that perfection to sour. I love this double page spread where we can see the building blocks that support Quantum’s American Hero image are his crumbling marriage.
Portela’s use of space on this page clearly illustrates the weight of all that heroism, slowly crushing the genuinely loving relationship between Quantum and his wife. As their not-so-perfect-perfect lives play out, Quantum becomes an authoritarian dictator and Woody becomes a lonely alcoholic partying to keep the pain at bay. Perfection is not a prison that either of these guys is well suited to.
When they do finally come face to face, they descend into fisticuffs, like any good superhero battle should. Portela uses this opportunity to evoke another perfect comic book-ism: the nine-panel grid.
I love that this ends with Eric calling “ENOUGH!” Y’all were never perfect, time to stop pretending you are.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?