Grim_Noir Takes Aim At The New VALIANT’s Archer & Armstrong #1

Archer & Armstrong #1

Title: Archer & Armstrong #1

Writer: Fred Van Lente

Covers: Mico Suayan (or) Clayton Henry

Variant Covers by David Aja (or) Neal Adams

Art: Clayton Henry

Colorist: Matt Milla

Letterers: Dave Lanphear

Published by Valiant Entertainment

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Does anyone know if Fred Van Lente suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder? Because it certainly feels like two distinctly different people wrote the beginning and end of the first issue of the new Valiant Entertainment’s reboot of Archer & Armstrong.

I had high hopes for A & A: I have really enjoyed the new Valiant’s restarts of X-O Manowar and Harbinger, plus I was a fan of the original Barry Windsor-Smith Archer & Armstrong series. Since the Armstrong character is immortal, he has basically crossed paths with EVERYONE. This makes A & A a real tent pole series for the rest of the Valiant Universe, so you would think they would be extremely invested in what the new #1 would look and feel like.

However…

What we get is the kind of script that must make “Scriptwriting 101” professors cringe. If I didn’t know better, I would swear this is the first thing Van Lente has ever written: He is trying so hard to impress us by blatantly cribbing from other, more famous scriptwriters.

The first five pages (the immortal Armstrong’s origin) feels like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto-lite (if it was rewritten by Charlton Heston).

The next six pages are Archer’s backstory done in the style of Kevin Smith’s Dogma-meets-Red State. Trust me, Fred, using satire as a blunt instrument is a pseudo-art that only Kevin can pull off. There was message in there somewhere about organized religion and the Middle America you’ve clearly never met, but it was more like I was slowly being beaten to death by Lilliputians with feather dusters.

And, I’m not sure if it was a failure of the script or Clayton Henry‘s artwork, but must we label every single fight move with what fighting style it is and a Wiki entry on where that fighting style came from? I can assure you, Mr. Van Lente, most action geeks already know all of this. However, this could very well be the artist’s fault. Henry is unrelentingly skint with backgrounds’ details. This makes perspective difficult, and may have necessitated the labels. (Although, having Archer fight orphans of the same nationality as each of the fighting styles felt vaguely racist.)

I was about to throw the mag across the room in complete disgust, but I remembered that I had a review to do (and that I’d dropped four bucks for the thing).

Then, like a glade in the forest or an oasis in the desert, I hit page 12: Suddenly, there was a real character speaking with a singularĀ and unique voice that was worth hearing. His “journal” entries on New York City made me smile and even slightly empathize with him. Archer stepped out as a fully-formed, multi-dimensional character.

Everything after that point advances either characters or plotting. And it is a joy to read.

So, basically four bucks for twelve decent pages to read. Even with the five page Ninjak preview in the back-up story slot, this issue hits your wallet like those old Image #0 issues. I can only recommend that you either start with Archer & Armstrong #2, or wait for the trade paperback. At least then, twelve pages of fiddling about won’t be 50% of the book.

I hope.

Ol' Grim Hisself* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter to end his self-delusions.

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