Valiant’s new Archer and Armstrong

This review is also available as a podcast contribution to Spiritblade Underground podcast, a podcast aimed at christian geeks, available through iTunes or go to The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast Home Page.
Click HERE for my Archer and Armstrong audio review on episode 300 of this podcast, go to 25:18 minutes.
Or click the video below.

It’s been only about two years since I started reading comics, and since it was actually the Green Lantern movie that really got me started, I’ve primarily been a DC Comics girl, with a whiff of Marvel thrown into the mix to add some variety. But lately, with all the relaunches and soft reboots that have been going on at both DC Comics and Marvel, my usual batch of comics have been lacking some important traits that had kept me interested up until that point. Long story short, I ditched a number (but not all) of my usual titles and started looking “elsewhere”. Since I’d been hearing a lot of enthousiastic reports and reviews about “the new Valiant”, a comics publisher that had relaunched as recently as May 2012 under the name Valiant Entertainment, I decided to try some of their titles. Starting with Archer & Armstrong

Who?

Archer and Armstrong – a duo I knew literally nothing about when I opened issue #1. I didn’t know that there used to be a “previous Valiant universe” (by Valiant Comics, 1989-2004) in which an original Archer & Armstrong duo had their adventures. Nor did I know any of the creative team, which I think is somewhat excusable (…) given my fairly short history as a comics reader. So this new comic introduced me to writer Fred van Lente and (for the first six issues) artist Clayton Henry – and as introductions go, this one was great!

Story

Obadiah Archer, 18 years old, has been raised by his adoptive parents – who, by the way, also turn out to be leaders of an ancient sect – to be a well-trained fighter. He’s sent to what he’s been taught to be a modern day Babylon – New York City, to hunt down and kill what he believes to be a demon. He soon finds that this “great satan” is actually Armstrong, a fun-loving, hard-drinking immortal. Together they discover a centuries-old worldwide conspiracy involving not only Archer’s family sect but also several other branches of one large ancient cult.

Of course the future of the entire modern day Valiant Universe depends on their actions and decisions to survive the past’s greatest threat…

Likes

First of all, what a great sense of adventure, humor and excitement is hidden in this gem of a comic! I’ve caught myself laughing out loud several times, which for a comic, is a great feat.

Second, the summaries at the beginning of each issue are great! It’s not just the fact that there are summaries (contrary to DC comics, whose refusal to add plot summaries I find greatly annoying), but they are a must read just for the way they are written! Even though a large part of the summarized stories is the same every week, Van Lente finds a way to summarize them uniquely with every issue. Plus, some of them are even humorous!

Furthermore, writer Van Lente has done a great job of incorporating just enough chunks of actual conspiracy theories and religious sectarian beliefs to grab my attention even more. For instance, I’d done some reading on Dominionism, a belief that many Christians consider to be heretical, and I recognized elements of that belief system in Archer’s family sect’s doctrines. Add to that hints of modern day theories on the Illuminati and the New World Order, and you get the idea. A job well done by Van Lente, for he’s kept it “comicy” nonetheless, by also adding his own fantasy and ideas into the mix. Suffice it to say, I ate that thing up! 🙂

…well, here’s an original take on the one percent and the financial crisis in the Euro zone! And of course there’s mention of some freemasons too 🙂

Also, although there are definitely undertones of ridiculing the Sect’s beliefs, Archer himself is portrayed as very serious, and committed to what he thinks the bible teaches – and as a Christian reader I can go along with that: for although I suspect Van Lente doesn’t necessarily agree with a Christian world view and may even view some of it as far-fetched as the Sect’s dogmas, Archer himself at least doesn’t know that his beliefs are not biblical at all. Seeing him trying his best to be as good as he believes a person should be, therefore immediately wins him the reader’s sympathy.

Another plus is the fact that although this is not a superhero comic as such, it sort of is anyway. For along the way Archer learns he has the special ability of perception, which in his case means he only has to see a certain skill practised once to be able to master it himself. And by skill, you can think for instance different fighting skills, to name the first thing that comes to mind. Now that is a special ability that comes in handy in many a dire situation! And then of course there’s Armstrong, not only big and strong, but also a 10,000 years old immortal! So yeah, there’s definitely some superheroical overtones… 😉

Last but not least: great writing overall, with lots of action advancing the plot.

Outrageous adventure, check. Humor, check.

It also has themes of friendship, loyalty, love and of course the great question: what is good and what is evil, and how can we tell them apart?

In short, I just can’t get enough of this comic and can’t wait till the next issue is out.

Dislikes

I’ve really got no big issues with this comic. There’s one remark I would make, that could only be qualified as neutral, definitely not as a negative. This pertains to the artwork: on the one hand the artists of this series do a great job of overall visual storytelling and they also convey facial expressions very well. However, on the other hand, it lacks a certain “wow factor” for me. It’s good, but not stunning. Hence the neutral.

Buy/Borrow/Skip

I give this comic a Quality score of 9/10 and a Relevance score of 9/10. So yeah, I say Buy this baby, like, instantly!

Are you reading any of the new Valiant comics? Which one(s) and what is your opinion on them? Please like, subscribe and share your thoughts here!

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