Monday, February 2, 2015

Archer and Armstrong #17, #18, #19 (Classic Valiant)

Immortal drunk Armstrong and his young Buddhist sidekick Archer are seraching for the former's missing paintings. Meanwhile, a 124-year old man, Duerst, is hooked up to various life support systems, and desperate to learn the secrets behind Armstrong's immortality, at any cost...

This three-part story is another dud for Valiant comedy Archer and Armstrong.

Issue #17 isn't too bad. It's not funny, and there's minimal plot, but it's not terrible, and showing the titular duo doing all sorts of odd jobs for cash is at least some effort in showing off their character. Not very successfully, but effort nonetheless. Following that, the story starts meandering, before abrutly switching gears in Issue #19. Then the story just stops, with nothing really having been resolved besides the villain's plans being slightly waylaid once more.

Archer drowning seems to only happen in order to pad out the story, and the Macrobiotic cult section (that is, the entirety of Issue #19) only serves to bring the plot to a complete stop. In Issue #18, we get an exchange between Archer and a figure who is God, assuming this isn't a hallucination (which given Valiant continuity, it is), but all this does to serve the plot is remind Archer that he should be fighting evil. You know, the thing the series was already meant to be about! I also don't like this scene because it's very unsubtle. For example, in Archer and Armstrong #0, there's no dialogue from any god needed for Archer to realize that he's headed for heaven, and that he needs to go back to Earth to bring his parents to justice. I also don't like that this God is the brimstone dick type.

The worst thing about this story is that it continues the story arc from Issues #13, #14, and #15, and doesn't even conclude it! Was 'Armstrong looks for his old paintings' really a plot worth a 12-issue epic?!

The leads here are bland. Armstrong is rather boring, and while he does get some drama when Archer drowns, it's over quickly, and has no further weight on any events. As for Archer, he's pretty naive, and his morals are really poorly thought-out. In one scene after he's entered a boxing competition for quick cash, Archer's asked why he didn't like Armstrong's gator wrestling, yet is fine with knocking a guy out in the ring. Archer's answer is that he 'only hurts people who deserve it'. So, what, those boxers deserve to get bashed?! Next comes when Archer 'comes back to life', and he belittles Armstrong for having paid the hospital to save his life, claiming it was only God who was responsible for saving his life, and the hospital contributed nothing. What a sanctimonious jerk!

Duerst continues to be a boring villain, with very little personality to him. He's damn near annoying in how much he prattles on about jazz! If only he actually did stuff instead of repeating old tidbits, and maybe we'd have more of a real story!

The rest of the characters are wasted. Naomi is mildly likeable, but underused, and plays no real role in the story. Pan is an ok antagonist, but also extremely underused. Pamela gets a bigger role, in Issue #19, and she's pretty proactive, but acts as a deus ex machina.

Toyo Harada, the villain of other Valiant series Harbinger, briefly shows up in this story, and his appearance is forced 'crossover', and totally pointless. He shows up for one scene, and seems to be playing an important role in the story, but he and his Foundation just phase out of the proceedings for no reason. His part in the story doesn't even make much sense, as Harada is good friends with Armstrong's brother Gilad, the Eternal Warrior. If Harada wants to learn the secrets of immortality, all he has to do it give Gil a ring. Sure, he may need to fudge over a few details about his secretly being a supervillain, but he could get it accomplished easily enough, with no subterfuge necessary. After all, Gilad is an idiot! Why else would he be good friends with Toyo Harada and not know he's a mass-murdering lunatic?!

The humour in this story is barely there, and what there is is either gross, or unfunny. 'Do-Don't' exchanges are one of the lowest forms of humour when done poorly! The humour coming from the character of Pamela is borderline racist, as her German-accented dialogue is written phonetically, and we get lines like "Donkey shine, mine hair".

The art in these issues is barely passable, and very mediocre in places, especially concerning skin textures. The covers are better though. #17's is decent, while I particularly dig #18's. It's not great, but I like the imagery used. It makes the use of the Creation of Adam imitation actually seem necessary. Issue #19's cover is ok to, although your mileage may vary on if you find the Indiana Jones joke tagline amusing or not.

This storyline is nothing more than a waste, and it reduces Archer and Armstrong even further into a shadow of its former self...

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