I can’t believe I’m writing a Valiant review.
For those of you who know me, I have not been a fan of Valiant Comics. Well, that’s not really true, because I haven’t read many Valiant Comics. I just have never cared about Valiant Comics. I always assumed that they just weren’t my thing. Maybe they were marketed to a demographic that is not my own.
Then I read Archer & Armstrong #1, and it’s like it was written for me. Personally.
Let me back up. My good friend Infinite Speech has been trying to convince me to read some Valiant books. I read one and wasn’t impressed. But then I saw that two creators I really admire, Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry, who had a great run on Wolverine: First Class over at Marvel, were relaunching Barry Windsor-Smith’s creations of Archer & Armstrong. I was intrigued enough to try it.
Every once in a while, a creative team will seemingly reach into the reader’s head and take everything they love and craft it into something really special. It’s like Van Lente and Henry went up to one of those frozen yogurt machines labeled “Comic Book Clergyman” and “Infinite Speech,” pulled the middle lever, and out came the blended goodness of Archer & Armstrong.
OK, enough gushing for a minute. What the heck is this book about, you may be asking? Ten thousand years ago, something destroyed all of creation, save one guy. That guy, Armstrong, is now a bouncer at a bar, who finds himself in a mess of trouble when a born-again Christian assassin (yes) named Obediah Archer, who knows every fighting technique including capoeira, shows up looking for the ultimate evil. Turns out, Armstrong is that ultimate evil being that Archer is looking for, however, before they know it, they are both thrown together in a conspiracy to find the device that obliterated all life on Earth centuries before.
If that snapshot doesn’t make you want to pick up this book, I can’t be your friend.
Van Lente solidifies himself with this issue as one of the most exciting and fun writers in comics today. This book literally has everything from high action to comedy to intrigue. There is a tapestry woven in just a few pages that endears you to the main characters and immediately captures their relationship. I’ve never read any of the previous Archer & Armstrong comics, and Van Lente drew me in immediately with wonder about what makes Armstrong tick and what draws Archer to his mission. On top of that, Van Lente has laid these well-written characters into a Dan Brown-esque conspiracy.
What hindered the old Valiant Comics for me was the lackluster art. I’m happy to say that Clayton Henry, who has been under the radar for a while now, raises the bar in a way that makes Archer & Armstrong a Valiant title with clean lines, great character acting, and dynamic panels. His choreography of Archer’s fighting is top-notch, as well. As someone who appreciates good comic book fights, I found Henry’s art hit me on every level. Another thing I never liked about the old Valiant was the dull colors. But Matt Milla on colors makes the book pop with even-tones. Archer’s panels tend to have a cool palate while Armstrong’s is warmer. This sets the tone of their relationship even more and expresses exactly what colors are meant to do in a comic book.
How can someone who had no interest in a Valiant comic now sing one’s praises so highly? That right there is the testament to the quality work Van Lente, Henry, and Milla are putting out with this title. So if you’re looking for a buddy-team unlike any you’ve seen before, you’re intrigued by religious and historical conspiracy theories, you love various styles of martial arts, or your name is Jeff Jackson or Infinite Speech, then this is your book.