We’re well into August now which can only mean one thing…it’s my dad’s birthday soon. Yes, well that and the fact that Valiant Comics is relaunching the final title of its first wave with issue #1 of Archer & Armstrong. The series was a big hit among readers back in the early 90′s. I will say this, it didn’t attract much of my attention then, but it sure as heck does now.
When I first discovered that Valiant Comics was making a comeback, there was a sense of excitement and a certain nostalgia that swelled in me. Back when they were in their heyday, titles such as Ninjak and X-O Manowar were some of my favorite reads. Then financial tornado that swept the comic book industry some years back hit Valiant especially hard, except this tornado didn’t send them to the land of Oz. The once-successful publisher went belly up, with many fans thinking this was the end of the once proud storyteller.
Enter 2012 and the rejuvination of Valiant! First there was the new debuting of X-O Manowar which was quite impressive to say the least. Needless to say I’ve been hooked ever since. This was soon followed by the relaunching of other Valiant favorites like Harbinger and Bloodshot. With August, however, they saved the best for last…Archer & Armstrong.
Obadiah Archer is young man, probably 19 or so, who was raised in a very non-traditional environment. Never mind the fact he was brought up in a theme park. It’s his 20+ siblings and very severely overly Christian parents that make sure he’s ready to handle any follower of evil that shall grace the earth. This kid finds himself in a big city and everything is a sin to him; perfume billboards, TV shows, you name it. Oh yeah. He’s got an axe to grind alright. Then there’s Armstrong. This guy is pretty ancient, but you’d never guess it from the looks of him. Ultimately, the free-slugging bouncer finds himself paired with the young, religious zealot for a dynamic duo of a different kind.
I’ll be honest. I did not like how this story started off and did not care for how it was going early on, but oh, patience Daniel-san. Everything has a purpose here. Every panel has relevance and every word purpose. The summation is a story that literally comes out swinging and ends on that same gripping high note. It is a thread that finds its needle on the first try and keeps it going from there on out. If you’re impatient like me, you may not be able to pick up on that right away. Hang in there and after a few pages you’ll find out what makes comics’ odd couple truly succeed.
Clayton Henry (Uncanny X-Men) provides a very detailed visual layout of the story in progree. In my humble opinion, he does great work in general but excels at drawing action sequences. There is a definite sense of motion in his fight scenes and an equally certain sense of bone-cracking content in those panels. My only complaint is that everyone’s face and skin have an overly smooth, airbrushed look to them, taking away a little from my earlier “detailed visual layout” comment. Nevertheless, Henry’s work here is attractive and gets the job done in a big way.
Frad Van Lente (Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Zombies) becomes the teller of tales here with the writing duties. Van Lente does well to build a story carefully without giving away the punchline too soon. The introduction of Archer to Armstrong was not forced, as it blended seamlessly, becoming another vital cog in this system of literary gears and sprockets. Issue #1 was a solid read and did well to encompass all aspects of a great story. The characters were developed sufficiently with a lot of room to grow. The build and preverbial dam breaking were astutely timed. Lastly, the ending left you wanting more. I’ve reviewed several comic book titles and how often have you seen me write, “so I know it’s only the first issue, but…”
I’m not using that anymore. That was my disclaimer to ward off any annoying comments of people who may accuse me of not giving a title a chance in only its first issue’s read. Too bad. No more disclaimer. This is how you write and illustrate and first issue. You CAN kick ass in one issue and this reboot proves it. There are cults and secret societies, calamities, ancient artifacts and martial arts of all kinds. Needless to say, there’s a little something for everyone. Van Lente and Henry work well together and it’s evident on the pages of Archer & Armstrong #1. Oh, and one last snippet of information here before we close this out. I can’t speak for the paper edition, but the digital version of this issue brings with it a sneak-peek of issue #5 of X-O Manowar. What is so significant about that? A certain Valiant character from days gone by makes his return. All I can say is, put your seatbelts on.