Saturday, August 9, 2014

Archer and Armstrong #5, #6, #7, #8, and #9 (New Valiant)

Yep, I'm back so soon to talk about the current Valiant iteration of Archer and Armstrong, even though I really shouldn't, as I want to review the remainder of the horribly mediocre original series before I round out all the new issues...

Naive young former would-be brainwashed religious assassin Archer, and drunkard immortal Armstrong are on the run from the latter's also immortal and very angry brother, Gilad. During the duo's last adventure, the Geomancer, seer of the Earth, was accidentally killed, and Gilad, protector of the Geomancer lineage, is convinced that Archer is responsible. The duo are rushing to find the late Geomancer's successor before Gilad finds them first, but another problem to contend with is The Null, a malignant cult with a sick fascination with the concept of 'zero'. They wish to unmake the universe, to bring it back to 'perfection', and only Archer and Armstrong, can stop them, with the help of Gilad, and whoever the new Geomancer is...

How about I start with the bad. This arc is five issues-ergo five months-long! Having stories this long is bad for a number of reasons, such as it taking nearly half a year to tell just one story, but the main one is that it really stalls the characterization. Obviously the characters aren't totally fleshed out only two stories into a series, but two stories should be two stories, not divvied up into five or six over as many months!

Despite having five issues to tell its story, this arc still starts off  really abruptly. And there are a couple of plot holes concerning Gilad. Why did he think Archer killed the Geomancer? I understand that as their mystical protector, he can sense a Geomancer's death, but how the hell can he tell who killed them?! In fact, it's a pretty faulty sense anyway, as he's wrong! Hell, the series itself is wrong, as this story states that Archer's parents killed the Geomancer, which isn't what happened. They were already dead, and the Geo merely died in an accident-One that Archer wasn't even involved in!

Issue #5 is just one big fight scene, which is a huge annoyance! Very little is established or told this issue, aside from the fact that Gilad and Armstrong 'aren't exactly on the best of terms'. #6 doesn't fare any better either. It tells more events, but gets across almost no more story-It just introduces the new Geomancer, spending WAY too long focusing on Kay McHenry, with zero appearances from the title characters until sixteen pages in! Look, establishing this important character for the arc is good and all, but this is too much!

The story starts proper in Issue #7, and this is where things start getting good! #5 and #6 are terrible storywise, but are entertaining issues, but things really get enjoyable here, as the comic delves into the interesting story. And of course, this comic is still hilarious!

Another positive is the awesome climax! Sure, the Null themselves are abruptly removed from the story, but aside from that, this is highly enjoyable stuff for sure!

The titles characters get no development this arc, for the above explained reason, which is infuriating. However, they're still likeable, and Armstrong's relationship with his brother is well-written, and one of the best things about the story.

Gilad's character isn't fleshed out a whole lot (contradictory series' like Eternal Warrior and Unity DO NOT HELP!) but he's fun to watch, and there's his relationship with Armstrong, as I said above.

As for his costume, it's not baby blue like in Classic Valiant, and thankfully the cylinders on his arm are explosives, which makes a lot more sense than the alternatives! There's too few of them to be a helpful supply of bullets, and in Classic Valiant, it was a shield, which is dumb, as a roll of cylinders is a terrible shield, especially when it only covers one side of one arm! All in all, Gilad's get-up is pretty cool!...So it's a shame that all future appearances have him sporting the stupid rotting hobo burlap hood (which must bring his peripheral vision to null), and a ridiculously impractical axe that he never uses.

Kay McHenry is a likeable and pretty well-rounded character, and I'm glad that Geomancers have a lot more power here than in Classic V, where their only ability was communicating with objects, making Geoff McHenry a near useless addition to any story he was in (given they tended to be all action, and he's an unarmed kid). Poor Kay McHenry though. Valiant has completely forgotten she exists! To date, she's never appeared again! Not in A&A because its not about Geomancers, not in Eternal Warrior, due to its huge continuity errors, and not in Gilad's current series Unity because the writers have seemingly forgotten about the Geomancers altogether. It's a shame, because like I said, I like her. I wish she'd get her own series, but that's hardly in the cards, especially since New Valiant's adhering to a strict self-imposed 'no more than 10 ongoing series' at once' rule, which is annoying! I do however appreciate why that rule exists-So fans who enjoy all of Valiant's lines can actually afford to buy them all.

Elliot Zorn is a boring villain. Hell, you can't even see his eyes for most of his appearances, just because oooooOOOOooooOOOooo, I guess, and one page in #6 repeats the same image three times! Compounding the problem is that he randomly dies offscreen near the story's climax and is replaced as the main villain by the Last Enemy. Speaking of, the Enemy is a cool villain-Much better than in Classic Valiant, where he was a literal baddie deus-ex-machina. The One-Percent are pretty funny minor villains, with numerous scenes that made me chuckle.

The artwork is very good, despite a couple hiccups like the above image. The covers range from good, to bad, to confusing. #5's is boring and dull, with nothing but Gilad posing against a blank background. Also annoying is the 'Z' artist's signature, which is really too noticeable, given there's literally nothing else in the background other than gradient orange?! 6's cover is decent, while 7's is great, but a non-sequitur. 8's is just baffling, and 9's is serviceable.

This story arc of Archer and Armstrong has serious issues, but it's still my favourite so far, and I highly recommend reading it...Something the writer of Gilad's spinoff Eternal Warrior clearly didn't, judging by the massive continuity errors that plagued that series, eventually forcing it into hiatus (though that's not the official explanation-Valiant says it's on hiatus because of that 10 series rule, which I'm sure is at a least partial reason)...

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