A&A #1 (VALIANT COMICS)
STORY : Rafer Roberts
ART : David Lafuente (pencils), Ryan Winn (inks) and Brian Reber (colours)
After a successful first ongoing series and then a double-duo team-up with Quantum & Woody in the miniseries The Delinquents, it’s time for the much anticipated return of Archer and Armstrong – the unbeatable (mostly) fan-favourite super-genius boy warrior and his immortal, booze and party loving comrade and travelling companion.
I admit, I was excited as hell about this and even pre-ordered myself a copy. The original Archer & Armstrong series was one of my favourite books of the Valiant relaunch. But the danger, as experience has taught, of too much goodness in one series/run can be a problem when a new one starts because then the question becomes: is it as good?
This time around, our heroes are faced with a new adventure – one that was both expected (eventually, in a way) and yet completely goes in a new direction, i.e., Armstrong gets some old-timey flashbacks and has some kind of debt or favour or such for an old friend and hops into his bottomless magic satchel. As usual he doesn’t think it through and Archer comes home to find the satchel wide open and lizard-men roaming the room. He smacks them down and then requests the help of his not-quite-estranged “sister” Mary-Maria, who also happens to more or less be head of an all-womens cult and pretty much says that she’ll watch over the open bag but also that she wants to steal it and probably will. But what’s a kung-fu mastering young badass to do? So he thanks her and hops into the unknown, wherein we get some topsy-turvy nutiness right from the start and find ourselves face-to-garbage-smeared-face with an ancient foe (of sorts) of Aram Ani-Padda, a.k.a, Armstrong.
As far as stories go, this comic is not trying too hard to get into anything too intricate right from the start. It keeps it simple, keeps it fun and keeps it moving at a brisk enough clip without being just a quick-shot. The biggest plus point in Roberts’s writing for me was his handle on the Obidiah Archer character, his dialogue and his rapport with his sister and Armstrong. In its own way this is very much his issue. Armstrong gets actually critical but limited page-time, but it definitely seems like he’s being written alright and the general tone of levity and not-taking-things-too-seriously that was for me a hallmark of what made the original series so successful and enjoyable is still alive and kicking here. The world inside the bag and its denizens too have a quirky humour going so far which works really well in this first issue.
The artwork works well, but I feel like the pencils and layouts were nice but a little crammed. The detailing and character-rendering were pretty decent but were only decent for me and nothing too great. In addition, I don’t know if that was intentional, but the inking and colouring at times felt a little black-heavy. All would be okay if the layouts felt a little more organic, right now it feels like they’re trying to do odd and quirky to match the tone of the comic and the bags inner world, but doesn’t seem to be working all that well.
THE LAST WORD:
While I’m luke-warm on the artwork, the well written characters and an amusing enough storyline starring one of my favourite duos in comics today is enough by itself to keep me reading at least the next several issues so feel free to assume that I’m recommending this comic.
Plus, the curiosities of the bag and things we can glean about possibly amusing events from Armstrongs long life and just the endless potential for humour in it all are for me a HUGE reasons to give the comic a try.
STORY SCORE: 9.8 / 10
ART SCORE: 7.5 / 10
OVERALL SCORE: 8.7 / 10