Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Archer and Armstrong #7 (Classic Valiant)

There's a special level of scorn I hold for comics that waste their potential, and issues that waste their story. Archer and Armstrong #7 'succeeds' at hitting both bases. Comic series' that waste everyone's time by having four/five issue long arcs (spread out over as many months) are bad enough, but individually wasteful ones are just as bad.

Young Buddhist Archer and drunkard immortal Armstrong are driving around in Angouleme, France when their car breaks down. Instead of hiking dozens of miles back to the nearest gas station, they decide to go to the nearby castle and ask to use the phone to call for vehicular help. However, it turns out that this castle is not only a hub for antique smugglers, but also a psychotic member of The Sect, the order dedicated to sacrificing the 'great evil' that they believe Armstrong to be...

This issue starts off already in the middle of things. No opening, no characterization, or introduction. Thankfully after a few pages, it does flash back and tell us how the titular duo got in this mess, but still, pointless in media res is not a good way to start off your issue, or get new readers onboard. The issue does improve somewhat once it starts proper in the flashback, but the structure is still mangled althroughout, so it frankly should have just done that from the get go!

There are numerous other problems with this issue, such as when Armstrong starts fighting these smugglers, Archer just walks off to admire the beautiful old house. What?! Why isn't he aiding his buddy? And no, there's no real* explanation for why he does it, comedic or logical.

*I say 'real' because there is a sort-of justification, but it's extremely weak.

This story was at least simple enough after the reader whiplash from the opening wore off, but then a Sect member suddenly comes in out of freakin' nowhere (technically), making the plot feel overstuffed.

If you've read my review of the last two issues of A&A, you'll know of Armstrong's wife, and how for no explained reason, he only visits her sporadically, despite them being a happy and loving couple. Here, Armstrong has been badly grumpy and morose since leaving the company of his wife again-Then why did he leave her?! This is not good writing! Just as it isn't that the duo Just So Happen to stumble upon a random castle full of bad guys, and a sect member to boot!

The biggest crime thus far with this series is that there is no explained reason why Archer is palling around with Armstrong. He isn't just a friend, but instead lives a nomadic lifestyle with the guy! Why? If you've read Issue #0, you may thing 'To fight evil' is an explanation, as Archer wants to devote his life to such a task, but that really isn't the reason, as they never do that. More often than not this series, the two leads stumble into trouble, or trouble seeks them out. Only on very rare occasions do they actually willingly set out to fight bad guys.

This issue does have decent moments, and funny pieces of dialogue, but they're fileted in-between a mediocre issue which tells basically no story, and advances nothing! But then again, this is classic Valiant. Advancing series plots was not something they were ever good at (courtesy of the continuity stopper that is Rai #0, mostly), outside of Dr. Mirage, and HARD Corps.

One moment that doesn't make sense is when Archer and Armstrong say the wrong password at the front door of the crooks' lair, they're dropped down a trapdoor and asked "How'd you learn the secret password?!"-Err, they didn't. They never knew it...Wait a second, "Why didn't you say so in the first place"? How did you read the dialogue in the above picture? I thought they were snidely telling the duo that if they knew the password, why didn't they say it first instead of the random answer Armstrong gave. That makes sense. But no, apparently if you say something random when these crooks ask for the password, they'll inadvertently give you the real one, not notice when you parrot it back to them, and then give you a genuine well-meant welcome by dropping you down a trap door! Ugh, I think this comic has made me dumber!

The artwork is ok, but not so good in places (pictured below). The cover is ok on its own, but it's embarrassing when you realize that by looking at this cover, you realize you get the same amount of substance as you do in the issue itself.

As for other layout stuff, There's a moment in Archer's narration that lacks capitalization, and the narration boxes and font are still annoyingly small, but at least the inking is much better than the last couple of issues.

All in all, this is a mediocre issue of Archer and Armstrong, full of little problems that add up heavily and sink it...

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