Tuesday, April 15, 2014
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG
This churlish neglect of some darn fine comic books is mostly but not entirely my fault. I enjoyed the Valiant collections enough that I wanted to read all of the issues between the initial volumes and the later issues they were sending me. While it’s not exactly a case of “the first one is free,” the end result is the same. I’m hooked on Valiant.
My favorite of the new Valiant titles is Archer & Armstrong by Fred Van Lente with art by Clayton Henry, Emanuela Lupaccino, Guillermo Ortega, Pere Perez and Khari Evans. Archer is “youthful idealist Obadiah Archer, who was adopted and raised by an evil organization called the Sect.” The branch that raised Archer was the Dominion, but I’ll get to them after this digression.
Digression. While it’s not exactly a flaw, it is worth noting that every Valiant series has at least one and often more than one evil secret organization. It’s a good thing these evil organizations are secret because if the average citizens knew about them they would be even more paranoid than Fox News viewers. End of digression.
Armstrong is Aram Anni-Padda, one of three brothers who stole this mystical thingamabob called the Boon about ten thousand years ago. This did not bode well for the brothers or the world, but it left Aram immortal. He scattered the pieces of the Boon throughout the world and then got down to serious adventuring, drinking and sex. This is a simplification, but not much of one.
Everybody in the Sect wants Aram dead, but not until they get the parts of the Boon. Archer won the Dominion Teenage Assassin crown and is sent to kill Aram and recover the Boon. He is being played, but I’m sure you already figured that out. If you’ll look down at the next paragraph, I have another digression for you.
Digression. Archer can do all kinds of stuff and knows all kinds of stuff. Though the captions pointing out his abilities and knowledge are sometimes difficult to read, they are also both informative and amusing. If it’s not too much trouble to make them a little larger for us old folks, but only if it’s not too much trouble, that would be nice and, yes, I’ve turned into your passive-aggressive granny. I think we all knew it was just a matter of time. Which brings us to the end of this digression.
Van Lente brings a Steve Gerber-like wit to the proceedings. Aram and Obadiah are likeable characters. It’s easy for the reader to be in their corner. They screw things up from time to time, but they always try to make those things right. Some of their exchanges had me chuckling out loud. But nothing in the series is more delightful than the wild and crazy secret organizations that are part of this series.
The Dominion are pseudo-fundamentalists with their own theme park. The Sisters of Perpetual Darkness are sword-wielding nuns. The One Percent are exactly who you would expect them to be. We also get hashish-eaters, actual gnomes of Zurich and the Black Bloc, whose members wear boxes on their heads.
Van Lente’s writing is the biggest attraction for me, but the art is always excellent as well. Though the artists change every three or four issues, the characters are always easily recognizable. “On model” is what we used to call this back in the day. It’s a concept with which I wholeheartedly agree.
The production values on Archer & Armstrong and all Valiant titles are high. The individual issues and collections look good. Pride in appearance is also a concept with which I agree. Which leads me to another digression.
Digression. Before I decided I had to have the Archer & Armstrong issues between those collected in the first volume and the first of the single issues (#16) I was sent, I had no trouble following the story despite not having read issues #5-15. There are two reasons for this. One, the inside front covers of the single issues have a helpful summation of what has gone before. Two, being not just a good writer but also a skilled writer, Van Lente makes it easy for a reader to stay in the loop. End of digression.
Archer & Armstrong is a fine series. If you like super-hero comics that are outside the norm and reasonable self-contained, you will like this series. I’m liking the heck out of it.
Archer & Armstrong Vol. 1: The Michelangelo Code (collects Archer & Armstrong #1-4)
Archer & Armstrong Vol. 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior (collects Archer & Armstrong #5-9)
Archer & Armstrong Vol. 3: Far Faraway (collects Archer & Armstrong #10-13, 0)
Archer & Armstrong Vol. 4: Sect Civil War (collects Archer & Armstrong #14-17)
Every week or so, I’ll be writing about another of the new Valiant titles. I’m awaiting the X-O Manowar collections I’m missing, but they should arrive in a day or two. After that, I’m thinking maybe Harbinger or Shadowman. But I’m open to reader suggestions, so feel free to weigh in on this.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” bloggy thing. The title of the story is “When Stalks the Cougar” and has the Kid being pursued by an incredibly hot older woman. Marvel was always ahead of its time.
© 2014 Tony Isabella