This Wednesday, Valiant releases the second issue in their reboot of Archer and Armstrong. Writer Fred Van Lente helms the tale of the immortal Armstrong and his unlikely partner, Obadiah Archer, with pencils by Clayton Henry. In case you didn’t catch issue 1, or just need a reminder, the first issue starts with a flashback to ancient Mesopotamia and Aram (later called Armstrong) trying to prevent a Cataclysmic event. In present time we’re introduced to Archer, who appears to be one of many kids being raised (brainwashed?) by two fundamentalists they all call Mom and Dad. The kids all live in secret at an amusement park inside what appears to be a Noah’s Ark compound where they are trained to fight for their caretakers’ supposedly holy cause. Mom and Dad send Archer out to kill someone, who we find out is Armstrong, but the two end up briefly working together and the issue ends with Archer finding out that the people he trusted had sent him to die as a sacrifice for their organization, referred to as The Sect who are working with the Wall Street Cult, The One Percent. Yeah, I know…subtle…but I’ll get to that later.
So this brings us to issue 2. Even if you missed the first issue it’s okay to jump on here if you’re interested in checking out this series. The first page has a summary like many comics have these days and the first couple panels of the comic itself summarize the characters and what’s going on. Plus, the first issue wasn’t all that impressive as I’ll expand on shortly. I’m avoiding spoilers, but to summarize Archer and Armstrong find common ground in their opposition of the Sect and begin working together. We see more of the “buddy” elements I’ve heard these two are famous for in their previous incarnations. We also begin to unravel the mystery of the Boon that the Sect desperately wants to complete. The six main pieces have entrancing qualities for humans and it seems the various parts have played significant symbolic roles throughout history. While the first issue is largely exposition this issue reads like a sort of postmodern Indiana Jones written by Dan Brown with the writers of National Treasure handling the dialogue.
First of all, the art is great. As a Marvel fan I enjoyed Henry’s pencils. They’re sharp and fun which certainly helped the reading experience. Though I had heard of Archer and Armstrong, I had never read any of their previous comics. I came into this reboot mostly blind and I’m not sure if that effected my opinion in regards to story or not. I’ve heard they’re a fan favorite, but I didn’t start this reboot with that level of attachment. After the first issue I wasn’t too excited to continue reading. There was a decided lack of subtlety in the start that spilled into issue 2 a bit. From the overbearing and diabolical religious parents to the insidious One Percent Cult, the liberal overtones were about as subtle as the theme park visitors were skinny at the start of the story. Which is to say they weren’t at all. The heavy-handed symbols, if you can even call them that, were so blunt and obviously stolen from this past year’s headlines that I had to stop and rub my head a bit.
All that being said, I still feel this issue is worth reading. It’s the conflict between the titular duo that really make the book. The stark contrast of hedonism and piety, wisdom and naivety make their partnership tense, but somehow they manage to make it work and it’s a lot of fun to watch. Armstrong is amusing on his own, but the bragging and petty bickering he heaps on Archer is golden, especially when it’s tossed back at him. While this series has a couple problems, the second issue was noticeably better than the first and the cliff hanger at the end of this issue had me almost excited to see where this story was going. So if you can get past the level of unsophistication, this book is fun. Pick it up this week!