Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Archer and Armstrong: Overall (Classic Valiant)


Obadiah Archer is a young Buddhist monk who's recently returned to America from a monastery in Ladakh. Archer was the child of two devout preachers in Topeka, Kansas, and he was a happy, God-loving child, until one night when he walked in on his parents in the middle of raping and murdering a young teenage girl. Archer's parents knock him out, then set fire to the house, temporarily killing the boy, until medics arrive and revive him. When Archer wakes up, he knows his parents, who the authorities seem none the wiser to, will make sure this time time to finish the job, so he runs away, eventually ending up in Ladakh, near Tibet. He spends years of training at a monastery, so he can one day return to gain revenge on his parents, but when he returns to America, he finds that they were arrested shortly after he first ran away. Now purposeless, Archer roams around the streets of L.A., eventually bumping into an immortal drunkard named Armstrong...

Archer and Armstrong is a buddy comedy series from Valiant Comics, and has a popular reputation. Unfortunately, I've found this series to be nothing but a disappointment! It's not just that I don't like it, but rather that two issues of the series are brilliant, and the rest is pure mediocrity, at best!

Lets start with the writing. Archer and Armstrong started off strong with its first story, which was Issue #0 for some insane reason, but immediately following that was the Unity event comic, which took up the first two issues of A&A. This was a highly annoying move, as the last thing a new series needs is its first issues to be part of an unrelated crossover event! That completely kills the series' momentum, as well as takes completely away from the character introductions, and their journeys.

Following that, we get a dull road trip series that's devoid of anything interesting. The plots are boring, accomplish very little, and never have entertaining characters. The series' main story arc involves The Sect, a millennia old cult devoted solely to killing Armstrong. There are multiple problems with this arc. The first is how overpowered the Sect is. Armstrong says that practically every city in the world each has thousands of Sect members. First of all, that's way to overpowered, and second, how could that many people have so much trouble killing one guy? You can't even use the excuse that Armstrong is nearly invulnerable, because the Sect freely use automatic weapons. All they need to do is locate him, then have a sniper plant a bullet into his skull. Plant two more after he falls to the ground, then problem solved, Armstrong is dead. I know they could do this, because Armstrong's brother Gilad is a full-on powerhouse soldier, yet when he gets shot just once in the head in his own series, he dies for a bit, then comes back totally jumbled.

The other problem with the Sect storyline is that it's never advanced. It's a purely static plot. In fact, using the word 'plot' is excessive. The Sect is really only an excuse to have issue-long fight scenes, and that's it. There's not one issue of Archer and Armstrong where there's a genuine story involving the Sect. The just want Armstrong dead, and fail a lot.

The comedy in this series is either-non-present, weak, or downright unfunny, sometimes to the point of racism! The few times I did laugh were in Issue #0 and #12, which had genuine laughs on display. Nothing gut-busting, but nothing painful either.

Head writer/artist Barry Windsor-Smith left the series following Issue #12, and it immediately took a downturn, both in artwork, and storytelling. It becomes a shadow of its former self, and I don't even know how that's possible, since the series was already pale enough!

Focus is a serious problem Archer and Armstrong has. In Issue #0, Archer swears to devote his life to fighting evil, yet he never does. He just goes cross-country palling around with Armstrong, and the duo often get unwittingly and unwillingly embroiled in brawls and 'hijinks'. Then, in Issue #18, we get a very unsubtle scene where a drowned Archer has a possible hallucination where God demands he renew fighting evil, which Archer vigilantly swears to. But then he goes and doesn't follow that purpose again! A couple of later issues have him actively striving to fight injustice, but the majority are just him sitting around and getting embroiled in 'hijinks'. You have to try to make a series have this little focus!

One particularly annoying early element to the series is Armstrong's satchel, which is full of magical trinkets. You'd think this would be important, but it isn't at all, and rarely plays a part in the stories. From Issue #3 to #11, we get an extremely drawn out and tedious subplot involving a kid who's stolen the satchel. This plot has very little to it, usually only making up a page or two every couple of issues, and only amounts to anything when the villainous Sect member Mahmud steals the satchel, leading into Issue #12. From then on, the satchel is literally never seen or mentioned ever again!

Ok, that's enough of the negatives for now. Let's get into what I like about Archer and Armstrong-Issues #0 and #12. Both are a great mix of comedy, and dark and mature subject matter. There isn't a whole lot to Armstrong in these issues, with the main focus being Archer. In all other issues, he's a young, polite, somewhat naive guy with little personality, but in these issues, he actually has legitimate character. He wants to lead a tranquil life as a monk, but no matter what he does, Archer can't overcome his rage. He wants to destroy his parents, and avenge both his life, as well as his parents' victims.

Ok, back to the negatives. Outside of #0 and #12, the characters in this series are dull. Archer is just boring, with little personality, while Armstrong is equally so. He has little character besides his being a drunk, and at times, he's unintentionally portrayed as a philandering dick, as the series totally forgets about his wife Andromeda, leading Armstrong to, among other things, start a relationship with his neighbour.

The first logo to this series was slablike and unappealing, in my opinion, while the second, which started come Issue #5, is nicer, and eye-catching.

Archer and Armstrong is a bad series, and while I wholeheartedly recommend the fantastic Issues #0 and #12, the rest are disposable...

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