Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Archer and Armstrong #1, #2, #3, and #4 (New Valiant)
The (relatively) new Valiant comics company has done a great job at reimagining all the classic (in age, I mean, not in storytelling quality) characters, with titles such as XO Man-O-War, Harbinger, Bloodshot, etc. and today's comic, comedy adventure Archer and Armstrong...
Naive young Obadiah Archer has been trained all his life in a compound by his parents, radically religious members of a worldwide sect (unbeknownst to their son). They've been grooming Archer and his many adopted siblings to eventually one day try and kill the man who the sect feel is the antichrist-Immortal drunkard and partyer Aram 'Armstrong' Anni-Padda. Once sent out to kill Armstrong, Archer soon realizes that his target isn't who he's been made out to be, and uncovers the truth behind his parents and The Sect. Teaming up with Armstrong, the duo have to stop Archer's parents from finding all the scattered pieces of The Boon-a mystical artifact that gave Armstrong his immortality-before they inadvertently destroy all life on Earth in their deranged quest for eternal life...
This is a great opening arc to the series! Near perfection! The story feels big and sweeping, rather than a barebones story told over four issues. There are a couple of problems, though-The lack of Thelma and Joseph Archer, namely. They're the main villains of the arc next to The Sect itself, but they barely appear, and we see practically nothing of their relationship with Archer, so there's not as much impact when he uncovers their betrayal and true colours. Thankfully his relationship with his (adopted) sister and kinda love-interest Mary-Maria is much better defined.
Another problem is the Sect Green Llama monks. They're entertaining villains, with an interesting power, one that comes in handy for Archer at later points in the series, but that's problematic because of how poorly explained the 'Akashic Field' is. It's not so much that there's a confusing explanation, but that there's none, as the fight scene between Archer and the monks is abruptly ended, and they're never seen again, so the Akashic Field is never properly defined (not here at least).
And finally, Archer receives a pretty grievous wound at the end of #3, but he seems to just shrug it off, and it doesn't bother him much at all. Then next issue (which can't be set all that later), he's fine. Hell, either he has multiples of the same shirt, or he took the time to have it repaired, as it's in perfect condition!
Ok, enough of the very few negatives. Onto the characters...
Archer is a likeable main character, and while his dynamic with his polar opposite partner Armstrong isn't 100% fleshed out yet, it's still well-written. While I like the simplicity of Archer's origin in the classic series a lot more, this one is better, as Archer's mission to assassinate supposed antichrist Armstrong holds more weight due to it coming from his parents and being ingrained all throughout his childhood, rather than something coming a supposed friend of his former Tibetan master who he's known for barely an hour.
Armstrong is a funny and likeable character, with a highly interesting background. It's just a shame that so little of it is revealed here. Not that it matters a whole lot, as his past is mainly comprised of drunken fun times.
As much as I don't like to be reminded that the Kardashians, One Direction, and Honey Boo Boo, etc. exist, I like Armstrong's encyclopedic knowledge of such subjects, and his use of more modern day words, like dude* (not that there's much of it in these first issues). Modern in the respect that it's coming from a guy who's 10.000 years old at the least! In most fiction about immortals, they're always straitlaced, oftentimes brooding loners, whereas Aram Anni-Padda is a fun-loving drunk who'll talk like 90's Kid with the best of them!
The only problem thus far with the duo's newfound relationship is that there's never any downtime conversation, where they get to know each-other any better. It's all just mission stuff. And while Archer has a logical reason to realize that his parents are bad and Armstrong isn't as abruptly as he does, I kinda wish it would've been lengthened slightly.
Oh, and is the mystery of The Boon, and how Armstrong received immortality well-handled?...Fuck if I know! You see, I already knew both things going into the series, and it didn't really dawn on me until just now that it's a mystery at first! Oops!
Armstrong's nun friend Tommy is a good character, but there's a large chunk of story where she just vanishes, and her re-introduction (and the bad thing that happens therein) feels really abrupt and out-of-nowhere.
One tiny aspect I like is Armstrong's satchel. Here, it's nothing particularly special, as opposed to classic A&A, where it was replete with amazing magical artifacts, yet is stolen and in the possession of a bratty kid for ten issues, and is then never utilized once Armstrong gets it back! After all of that bullcrap, you can see why I appreciate the satchel's relative simplicity here. Though that doesn't mean that it's not still a bit ooky, and such. Another thing I like is a callback to the classic A&A series in #1, with the Andy and Flo display at Archer's home amusement park/compound.
Throughout the series are humorous little definitions on skills and fighting styles, and they're chuckleworthy at times, but the print is far too small. Another issue is with a 'certain character's' last words in Issue #3, and a similar moment in #4. Said panels are blank, which is a stylistic choice, but can easily look like a printing error. There's also an odd dialogue section at the start of #4, where I'm not sure if the order is correct. Either that, or it's just poorly and confusingly staged dialogue.
The artwork is very good! The character's can look a little dome-eyed at times, but otherwise the art is clear, well-defined, and all-round pleasing to look at!
The cover to #1 is ok, but the painted look of the visuals clashes with the art for the comic itself, and the lack of background is annoying. #2's is better, and nicely humorous, but the faces are what's wrong with it-Archer's isn't drawn very well, while Armstrong looks closer to Santa, than what he actually looks like. #3's cover is meh, and the faces are worse! Armstrong looks like a grey melted Santa, while Archer's face is drawn like a forty year old Italian guy from the Bronx! And finally, #4's is the worst, as the artwork is radically different from what's in the comic!
To wrap up, Archer and Armstrong is a fantastic series with a strong opening arc. It's well-recommended from me! One last thing to talk about is the upcoming movie adaptation that Valiant announced on their site a few weeks ago-It's not happening.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Valiant have come out and cancelled the project or anything-It's still full steam ahead for them. What I mean is is that in the last 24 years, no movie that either Valiant, Image, or Robo Liefeld* has tried to produce has ever actually been made! (save for that one Spawn movie).
*That's a typo that I decided to keep in, because BWAHAHAHA!
Don't believe me? Well it's been two and a half years since Rob Liefeld was optimistic about the Youngblood movie 'finally coming to fruition' after trying since the '90's, about two years since plans for a supposed Bloodshot movie was announced with Neal Moritz, fifteen since Ice Cube wanted to make a Shadowman movie, and it's also been close to a couple of years since J. Michael Straczynski was in talks for making a Shadowman movie. In short, I really hope an Archer and Armstrong movie is made, but it won't be. I hope I'm wrong...