Archer and Armstrong #1 is the first comic book I’ve read in quite some time that actually made me laugh out loud in reaction to its brilliant satire while leaving me dying for more. Fred Van Lente has truly put together a masterpiece of satire and smart socio-political commentary on ignorance, greed, misunderstanding, conspiracy theories, and the deep seated bonds that inspire true friendship. Some lines from the first issue are almost too good to be true: “Greed is not just good, it’s Godly.” “It’s central our plan to stabilize the Euro, by blowing up Greece” and “Nooo I wanna ride the dinosaurs like they did in caveman days!” These lines might not seem as hilarious to you at the moment as they do me while typing them and remembering them in context, but trust me: if you read Archer and Armstrong #1 you will totally get the joke.
A&A #1 is no joke of a first issue though. It really just might be, next to Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger #1, the best single issue that Valiant Entertainment has published. Archer and Armstrong was a massive fan favorite back in the early 1990s, and I have no doubt, that under Van Lente’s brilliant direction, this book will be the fan favorite of the 2010s. I haven’t read a first issue that packed so much intelligent commentary and humor into it while setting up such a captivating long term story arc, AND swiftly and deftly tying it all together as seamlessly as Van Lente does.
Archer is the trained assassin and son of some ultra-right wing Christian fundamentalists who are members of Congress and proprietors of a Christian themed amusement park. Not only are they ultra-right wing Christian fundamentalists, they are complete ignoramuses who live to inspire ignorance in others. Their son, Obadiah Armstrong is a master of several martial arts forms and the bearer of “The Fulcrum,” a mystical device tied to the early events of the book that occurred during the ancient age of Mesopotamia, and the destruction of the world as recorded in Genesis. His mission is to destroy the beast, Armstrong, an immortal member of the Anni-Padda clan and brother to Ivar and Gilead, The Timewalker and The Eternal Warrior (one of which I CANNOT wait to see in his own series next year!). The mission isn’t quite what it seems though, and neither is Armstrong. While Armstrong might be as strong as an ox, there isn’t much that is beastly about him besides his tendency to vomit on bad guys after having a little too much to drink (another source of my out loud laughter while I was reading) while quoting Carl Sandburg. We all know that the two will become the most storied and loved odd couple of heroes, and the best of friends eventually (it’s their destiny if this series is going to be anything like its predecessor), but their journey towards friendship won’t be an easy one with The Sect (a stand in for every single conspiracy theory known to man's shadow group ) wreaking havoc on them both. The Sect is out to uncover the world’s most powerful, and hidden, weapon…while enjoying life as One Percenters.
Bringing Van Lente’s genius to life is the equally gifted Clayton Henry. He hits all of the sequential art requirements deftly and manages to capture not only Archer and Armstrong’s characterizations brilliantly through their facial expressions and body language, but every single member of the supporting cast, including those created for the background. He also does a brilliant job of bringing to life the real life “amusement park” of Times Square (as Archer calls it). Hopefully, he and Van Lente will be together on A&A for a long and productive time.
All of Valiant’s new books have been heads and shoulders above their recent competition from the Big Two, and several other independent publishers, but Archer and Armstrong just might be the book that rises to a head and shoulder higher than Valiant’s other books. With every new Valiant book published I continue to be amused, entertained, and best of all amazed.