The first page of Marc Guggenheim and Freddie Williams II’s “The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum” #1 sums up the concept for the comic in a nutshell, when the hero is able to say “Mommy” seconds after being born. Jonas’ character and the following events all flow from that abnormal intelligence and accelerated intellectual development.
The plot has a lot of ambitious ideas in it. Guggenheim has cited early “Fantastic Four” as one of his inspirations for this story, and these adventures are successfully reminiscent of the energy in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s early style. However, the events and characters don’t have the same innocent appeal and bounce as “Fantastic Four.” Guggenheim differentiates Jonas from Reed Richards by making him more isolated and less able to relate to other people, though these differences also make Jonas a weaker character so far.
Classic superheroes who aren’t on a team are still illuminated and fleshed out by their interactions with a supporting cast of friends, allies and villains. Batman is partially defined by how he relates to Alfred, Robin, the Joker and so on. Jonas doesn’t have those humanizing relationships. His opponents are formidable but inhuman. Guggenheim teases the reader at the end of the issue with the existence of a mind to rival Jonas’, a Moriarty to his Sherlock. If this is the case, that relationship could be the one to define him.
Eve, Jonas’ partner, isn’t a convincing Watson. Their relationship is unconvincing on all fronts. Stale lines like “It’s not just a question of where… it’s a question of when” are dropped into a conversation and the banter falls flat. Eve and Jonas don’t feel like partners or friends and they definitely don’t feel like lovers. Their post-victory kiss on the third page is surprising, but it feels mechanical.
Emotionally, Jonas is closer to Sherlock Holmes than Reed Richards. Holmes also had a scarily advanced mind that made him interested in most human matters. Sherlock’s characterization was never three-dimensional, but the hook was his approach to solving mysteries. The plot for “The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum” #1 has lots of interesting facts, but it never builds tension, likely because the words are doing too much of the storytelling work and there’s necessarily a lot of showing instead of telling. The mechanisms of the technologies and medicine in Jonas’ work can’t be shown to the reader visually, whereas Holmes’ deductions were easier to care about and easier to follow.
It doesn’t help that the captions have inconsistent verb tense. “Master speech” is on the first page, “cured death” on the sixth page and “go on a date” on the ninth page. These are respectively the imperative tense, past tense and present tense. This is before time travel enters the plot, and the story isn’t told in flashback. Time appears to only be flowing forward chronologically. This is a grammar nitpick; verb tense changes are confusing if they don’t serve a point.
Williams’ artwork has great detail and his opening full page splash of a monster rampaging through London has a great Godzilla-like drama in it. His facial expressions manage to humanize Jonas a little, but his page layouts for his fight scenes are unnecessarily complicated. The unorthodox grids and the shift from borders to no borders don’t serve the action. Sotomayor’s colors neglect to pay attention to light and shading through most of the issue, and thus they flatten William’s linework. He also overuses cyan, but his neutral palette for the pocket universe scene is attractively warm.
The best parts of the plot are when Guggenheim surprises the reader by subverting expectations. I didn’t expect the pocket universe to reference a well-known 1953 lithograph, and the surprise of recognition was delightful. Jonas’ progressively ridiculous accomplishments, the dorky way he named his formula “DeathCure” and the offbeat charm of the pawnshop scene are all big plusses. The humor and compact, self-contained structure of “The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum” #1 are enjoyable but, to hook readers for the long haul, either the plotting or the characterization will need to step it up.