Monday, February 2, 2015

Archer and Armstrong #20 (Classic Valiant)

Young Buddhist Archer has joined up with a local vigilante group, in an effort to keep the streets of L.A. safe. As he attempts to find the source of a recent spate of brutal attacks, Archer's immortal friend Armstrong dresses up as Santa for charity, earning the ire of some gangsters...

This is a rather decent issue of Archer and Armstrong. It's not great, but the main characters are actually likeable for a change, and the series has finally dispensed of that insanely long 'Armstrong's paintings' arc, which ate up six issues and never did anything but waste time and money.

This issue's story is pretty simple, but it's entertaining enough, and follows a distinctive 3-act structure. Unfortunately the climax feels like it comes too soon, and is wrapped up too abruptly, which is due in part thanks to their being three splash pages in this comic! I love the final splash page though! It's a neat group shot, positive, and has Christmas cheer!

There's not really all that much humour in this issue, and what there is is pretty weak, like having 'Expletives Deleted' boxes over swearing. Stuff like that feels lazy, while genuine humour comes when the Santa-suited Armstrong gets shot up by gangsters, then gets back up to beat the tar out of them-I find the dialogue between Jamaladeen and Armstrong at the scene's end to be quite amusing.

The characters here are mixed. Archer is a likeable lead, as is Armstrong. Neither are characterised a whole lot, but they get their moments here and there, especially Archer. His scene with the battered prostitute he comes across is his best, and really makes the character a likeable guy.

This issue re-introduces the character of Amy, but we never see her and Archer talk. They've clearly reconnected, given their appearance together on the last page, but we never saw them rekindle their relationship, or even be on the same page together until the end. This is especially annoying as Amy never appears again! I know the two never had any chemistry to begin with, but if you've already gone to the trouble of re-introducing the character, you could at least write her better!

The young 'tough' street kid Jamaladeen is a decent addition to the story, while Pamela is completely underused.

The artwork here isn't great. It's not terrible, but it bears the early warning signs of the problems with this art style that end up rearing their ugly head tenfold over the next four issues, such as oddly angled mouths, overly visible and red gums, crosshatching to an absurd degree, extremely poor colouring and lighting, and the fact that this artist is seemingly unable to draw characters in any type of clothes other than a baggy T-shirt and shorts! He even draws the malevolent necromancer Master Darque like that come next issues #21 and #22!

This isn't anything special, but Issue #20 of Archer and Armstrong is the first one I can honestly say I'd recommend since the fantastic #12...

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