Sunday, August 17, 2014
Archer and Armstrong #8-Eternal Warrior #8 (Classic Valiant)
Ah, finally an issue of Archer and Armstrong that's digging into the latter's backstory! Today's issue is a special double-sized story, as it's mixed together with other Valiant series Eternal Warrior. And no, I don't mean it's a flipbook, but actually the two series' are literally melded together for this issue rather than be a two-parter. Thankfully that'd actually be pretty easy to accomplish given the connection the two have (the immortal Anni-Padda family) but this issue unfortunately wastes that potential...
Young Buddhist Archer and Immortal drunk Armstrong are driving around the French countryside while the latter regales his friend with the real tale of the three musketeers, which he was personally involved in.
In 1659 France, Geomancer (earth seer) Duchess Angelique D'Terre and her loyal 'fist and steel' Gilad Anni-Padda, immortal Eternal Warrior and brother to Armstrong, have a plan to overthrow King Louis XIV. The earth has told the Duchess that if history keeps on its current course, a bloody revolution will occur, so she and Gilad set up a (needlessly!) complex gambit to get the help of Gilad's two musketeer brothers, Aram (Armstrong) and Ivar, and the young D'Artagnan, and free King Louis' twin brother, The Man in the Iron Mask, and secretly install him as France's king...
Whether or not this issue is a good adaptation of The Three Musketeers, I've no idea, as I've only seen the 1993 movie, and the last time I saw that was when the only George Bush people knew about was H.W. What I do know is that this issue is boring!
The biggest problem aside from that is that this story just isn't Archer and Armstrong-At all! The story is a dead-serious Three Musketeers take, with characters who just so happen to be named after, or look like, the series' main characters. There are however sporadic bits of attempted slight comedy, and moments like these are placed in terrible out-of-tone moments, like right after a rape scene! The only truly funny moments here to be had are the first and last pages, courtesy of Archer.
The majority of characters in this story are either boring, or unlikeable. And their attitude in the ending doesn't make much sense. Armstrong, Ivar, and D'Artagnan are all pissed at Gilad for the 'horrible' thing he did, when it really isn't. All he did was try to get a guy on the throne, and when that guy turned out to be a murderous rapist, Gilad kills him. Neither he, nor the Duchess do anything wrong or morally questionable (minus their little trick with D'Artagnan). Granted, it is because of them that this psychotic puppet king was freed from prison in the first place, but the way Gilad's brothers' feel towards him is pretty unfounded.
The headliner of later Valiant series Timewalker, Ivar Anni-Padda's first ever appearance is in this issue, and it's completely out of nowhere. He's never been mentioned until now, and when he first appears, he's just...there. He has very little character to him and leaves zero impression. Plus, his time-traveling capabilities are barely explained! In fact, the end of the issue is the only time they're actually explained-The other times its mentioned this issue, you'll probably just be confused about what the hell people are talking about.
Oh, and Ivar?! Are you kidding me?! Three brothers, born in very ancient Mesopotamia, one named Gilad, the other Aram, and the other Ivar?! Ivar is a Scandinavian name, not Middle Eastern!
Armstrong is completely wasted, as is the Archer stand-in D'Artagnan. Also, one odd thing to point out about Armstrong is that he always calls Ivar 'My kinky brother' for no reason. Ivar isn't kinky at all!
Gilad is the most well-rounded of the brothers this issue, and I mean that loosely!
The story's villain (The Man in the Iron Mask) is pretty bland. He's an angry dick, and that's it. The reason he kills 'a certain character' is really petty, and doesn't feel fitting in the slightest. Also, this guy has been locked in a dungeon with a bolted on metal mask for countless years, yet is not only decidedly not pale, but he has no facial hair! Did his jailers feel the need to regularly shave him?!
The end to the issue is just baffling. There's a confusing bunch of splash pages, showing Archer and Armstrong throughout history. The implication seems to be that Armstrong has always had an identical bald ponytailed sidekick, but that makes no sense, nor is it ever mentioned again. Some of these pages look good, but others are terrible, like the civil war one where Armstrong is drawn terribly (think a wide-eyed gulping fish as a human), or the one at Custer's Last Stand! Not only does it not make sense why they're at that battle, but 'Archer' looks like a psychopath while gunning down Indians! Uh, comic, whether these are meant to be taken seriously, or they're just goofy non-canon concept art, having your characters violently slaughter Native American Indians is...rather not very endearing
The arrangement of speech bubbles is this story's biggest problem. Normally, you read them from top to bottom, but here, they frequently either continue on from previous panels, or just start at the bottom for no reason, disorienting you. The layout is at best a nuisance, and at worst, infuriating! There's also a moment where a character is stabbed, and their stomach yells their name...At least, that's how it looks given the position of another character's speech bubble.
One almost annoying aspect with the narration boxes is that not only do both Archer and Armstrong have them, but they're the same colour! Thankfully the font is at least noticeably different.
The artwork is all decent. As for the wraparound cover, it's hard to tell Gilad and Ivar apart, and Archer looks like he's had a paralytic stroke.
In closing, this is a pointless issue that's more interested in telling a boring historical story than it is in making any kind of effort to explore the rich backstory of one of Archer and Armstrong's title characters...