ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #3
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Clayton Henry
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)
Secret sects, a mystery as old as human history, and a fat indestructible drunkard with his young Christian-compound raised martial arts expert at his side. How could I not love ARCHER & ARMSTRONG?
Well, I’ll tell you how: if I let myself get hung by the noose of nostalgia like sooooo many of my contemporaries. The benefit of being an aged fangeezer is that we’ve read almost every comic on the shelf. The downside to being an aged fangeezer is that we’ve read every book the shelf. Valiant books especially hold a sweet spot in my heart that harkens me back to the early days of the 1990s when all I had to do with my time was read comics and be a teenager. I relished every moment of Valiant 1.0; I loved, collected, and reread every title year after year right up until the turn of the millennium. They were my solace during the mid to late 90s comic apocalypse.
So I approached the re-launch of the Valiant universe with the greatest of trepidation. My nostalgia has been thoroughly raped in recent years by comics from CRISIS to AGE OF APOCALYPSE, the new has never been as sweet as the old.
Valiant deepened my worries since fundamental characters from the old universe have now had their copyrights spread to the four corners of comicdom: SOLAR, TUROK and MAGNUS were not only popular characters, they were fundamental to the birth of the universe and one of the best cross-overs ever, UNITY.
Well, now that we are a good five months into VALIANT 2.0 I can say without reservation life is about change, and change is exceptionally good – especially when change is being led by some of the newest and freshest voices in comics.
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG is different than before, but every change is steeped in deep reverence for the old series. This time Archer started working for his parents, a couple of one-percenters looking to take over the world using faith as their weapon of choice. Archer also no longer becomes disillusioned by his parent’s before running into Armstrong, this time around killing Armstrong is what sets Archer on his mission of discovery and ultimate disillusionment in his parents’ Machiavellian ways. Another welcome addition this time around is that all of Archer’s martial arts moves are explained in handy and informative call-out boxes. Read ARCHER & ARMSTRONG because it’s entertaining AND educational.
ARMSTRONG is pretty much the same, a drunken lout who has spent eternity…well just trying to get drunker and loutier.
When the two came together back in the 90s, it was a meeting without purpose until they run into “The Sect” trying to kill ARMSTRONG. This time the book is founded on much sturdier ground. Before ARMSTRONG was immortal a device called “The Boon” wiped out the old world (think mythological) and humanity started anew. Only ARMSTRONG was left from the devastation and he spent the next several thousand years hiding pieces of “The Boon” and then summarily killing the brain cells that remembered where the pieces were hidden.
Sounds like a lot to absorb? Well it is, this book is chock full of every conspiracy theory and piece of ancient lore since the beginning of time.
Van Lente does a great job getting new readers up to speed in the opening pages of the third issue, which takes our Odd Couple into the bowels of the Vatican where a piece of “The Boon” is guarded by a sect of Nuns that eventually get dubbed with the LOL name Nunjas in the heat of battle.
Also joining the pair is a wise nun who 100 years ago (not literally – though close) captured Armstrong’s heart. She acts as a mediator between Armstrong’s debauchery and Archer’s piousness, reminding both why they need one another. At one point she whispers a line to Archer about faith that was the wisest words I read in comics this week and probably all year.
I’m not blinded by affection for what was, ARCHER & ARMSTRONG and the rebooted HARBINGER are some of the best comics on the shelves right now. They have reinvented the voice of Valiant for the new millennium, without once forgetting the deep and different characterization that made a name for Valiant oh so many years ago.