Young Archer is searching for his parents, and instead has run into one of the most psych-pop institutions to ever exist in the Valiant U 2.0: The Church of Retrology "the home to thousands of devout, fame worshiping zealots seeking enlightenment" lead by the Lizard King himself and powered by the Wheel of Aten (one of the MacGuffins that have plagued Archer and Armstrong over the course of the series' run). Inside the Church of Retrology is an even deeper, trippier, and more surreal location: The Chateau Troyes Hotel, "an infinite extra-dimensional hotel" where some of the most famous deceased pop stars reside...along with what could be considered the Holy Grail...but, can Archer rescue his parents from The Lizard King's machinations, and just what are his parents, and an aged Mary-Maria, doing in the Church anyway?
After a few issues where Archer and Armstrong crossed over with Bloodshot, and meandered a bit, writer Fred Van Lente rights the ship by taking the two on their most allegorically funny adventure yet. Over the course of the last few issues, the two have run into some of the most famous pop culture icons to ever exist. Everyone from Jim Morrison, to Kurt Cobain, to Elvis Presley, to Michael Jackson make an appearance while Hollywood excess and the inane cult of personality and fame that dominates western society is lampooned with aplomb, biting satire and humor, and, most of all, a strange reverence for the power pop culture icons hold over society. Van Lente's mixing of Grail lore, the legendary connection of the king to his land (Elvis as the King of America...and the need for him to be made whole again to save the soul of the land...a brilliant updating of Grail lore for contemporary society) with straight up action and buddy comedy tension is nothing short of brilliant postmodern literature in sequential art form.
Pere Perez's art brings Van Lente's story to life brilliantly. Perez effortlessly breathes life into everything from medieval knights to a brain damaged Kurt Cobain to Vegas Elvis to our heroes themselves while jumping from time period to time period and one psychedelic locale to another with ease. Not only is Perez one of the best artists working at Valiant right now, Perez is one of the best in the business. From dead pop stars to imaginative images of the mythical Askashic Field, Perez's art is a joy to behold.
Just as it has been from its beginning, Archer and Armstrong remains every month's top of the stack reads...and rightly so. If the newly announced Archer and Armstrong film is nearly half as good as Van Lente's stories here...it will be more than worth the wait.