Written by: Rafer Roberts
Pencilled by: David LaFuente
Published by: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Available in comic shops tomorrow!
I’ve been out of the Valiant loop for a little while. It’s not because I don’t like Valiant, quite the opposite. I love Valiant’s line of books. I actually think that Valiant is doing some of the best superhero style adventure books out there. Unfortunately Valiant has, like just about every other “superhero” comic book publisher, embraced the big crossover events that have driven every comic fan crazy since the debut of Crisis on Infinite Earths in the mid 1980’s. I will say that out of all the comic companies out there doing big crossover events, in my opinion, Valiant has able to do them in such a way that you don’t necessarily need to read every one of their books to know what was going on during their mega-events. Nevertheless, as the crossovers continued I began to get a bit confused as to which trade paperback I should pick up when. Because of that confusion, l found that I needed to take a break from the Valiant Universe for a bit like so many superhero universes that I’d invested in before it.
That’s pretty much a long winded way of saying that I’m a bit behind on my Valiant reading…as I tend to be with everything else these days. Archer and Armstrong, however, was always my favorite book of the Valiant line so when I saw that there was a new first issue of a title called The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong I knew I just had to check it out.
Now I’m not sure how this book differentiates from the Archer and Armstrong series before this book. Does the word “Adventures” denote a more all-ages friendly book much like the Bruce Timm inspired Batman and Superman Adventures comics based off of the 1990’s animated series? Is the title just an new jumping on point for new fans? Did the previous series end and this one is just going in a new direction? I didn’t know when I picked up the book but when I finished it I did know that The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong was just as entertaining, funny, and outright crazy as the series before it had been…and I loved it.
While the previous series seemed to be somewhat grounded in the “real world” of the Valiant Universe it seems as if Archer and Armstrong’s reality has expanded a bit more into the mystic plane. While it’s true that Armstrong’s origins were always tied into mysticism, the world in which the pair adventured never really seemed too steeped in Doctor Strange territory. Up until their fourth trade collection that is, which is last where I left off with Archer and Armstrong. This new series starts off with the odd couple of the Valiant stable of heroes actually traveling inside Armstrong’s version of a “Bag of Holding”. If you’re not a Dungeons and Dragons fan,allow me to explain. A “Bag of Holding” is, much like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, a dimensional interface. Meaning it’s a dimensional portal that leads to another reality that happens to be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. In this case the interface is Armstrong’s actual shoulder bag, which he climbs into to find something of personal value to an old associate of his. Fearing that once Armstrong climbs into the bag that he may be lost to their reality, Archer follows him down the rabbit hole into the bag that happens to be an opening to a world filled with all kinds of odd beasties.
Rafer Roberts spins a really amusing tale with this issue that embraces the spirit of the previous series but introduces an element of wonder that I hadn’t been exposed to before in the pages of Archer and Armstrong. The Archer and Armstrong that I was knew faced off against secret societies bent on some sort of world domination. In this comic the adventure is set in what is literally another dimension and Roberts successfully bridges the tone of the preceding series to this one and is able to keep the characters grounded enough in their own reality so that the voyage into a satchel bag doesn’t seem too out of whack with what’s come before. Most importantly, Roberts is able to keep the series as fun as it’s always been, never forgetting that what makes this comic as great as it is is the humor of Archer and Armstrong’s misadventures.
The art in this comic continues the tradition of artistic excellence within the pages of Archer and Armstrong. While the artwork in this issue is a bit more stylistic than what I’ve been used to when I think of Archer and Armstrong, it’s still a strong and dynamic aesthetic that brings a serious punch to the pages of the book. LaFuente’s style here reminded me much of eighties era Rick Leonardi but with a more refined touch. It’s a beautiful looking comic and I consider it to be some of the best stuff that I’ve seen come out of Valiant. That’s high praise because if there’s one thing I associate with Valiant it’s visual quality.
So The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong debuts with a strong first issue. For someone like me who’d been away from the title for a bit The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong served as the perfect re-introduction to the characters. Archer and Armstrong are my favorite characters in the Valiant Universe and if this comic is any indication the characters are in very good hands going forward. Now I’m just going to have to find some time to go back and catch up on all the stuff that I’ve missed…