I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of the Valiant stuff I get these days, but I am starting to think Archer & Armstrong might be my favorite.
Here’s a review for the third volume of that series.
After a quick zero issue where Armstrong relates how he and his two brothers inspired The Epic of Gilgamesh, Archer and Armstrong sneak into Area 51, looking for some clues on Project Rising Spirit, which may provide some information on the nature of Archer’s powers. As it is, Archer’s adopted sister (and love interest) Mary-Maria is also sneaking into Area 51 to find the Sect’s ultimate weapon so her parents, now more or less possessing her body after they and the other siblings appeared to have been killed by their tampering with the Boon, can escape the whole “no bodies” thing and claim mastery of the Sect as a whole. Both groups gets caught, particularly when Mary-Maria spots and kills one of those alien grays, and the trio end up finding the secret weapon in the form of a portal to the Faraway.
What is the Faraway? Well, it’s a mysterious alternate dimension where Armstrong and his brothers first found the Boon. Plant life is actually crystals. Water is really mercury. And lots of people and things that just mysteriously disappeared have been in that timeless zone all along. That’s how Faraway has come to be inhabited by dinosaurs, Roanoke Indians, Ambrose Bierce, and one General Redacted. Redacted, a psychotic commie-fighter who looks like Douglas MacArthur and disappeared into the Faraway decades earlier, acts as the villain for the arc. The grays work for him, and he hates communists or anyone he perceives as communists. And as an added comedic element, much of his dialogue is blocked out (you know, redacted) and the redacted words all appear to be swearwords.
That’s actually the strength of Fred Van Lente’s script work: Archer & Armstrong is often just funny. Armstrong’s brother Ivar shows up in Faraway as well, and the running gag with the timewalker is he keeps mentioning things that haven’t happened yet, such as when Archer says the love of his life is in Faraway with Armstrong, and Ivar assumes it’s Faith, whom Archer hasn’t met yet. Clayton Henry’s art on the zero issue and Pere Perez’s on the rest of the book capture the zippy and weird tone of the adventures to come. If anything, Archer & Armstrong keeps getting better. Let’s say nine out of ten dodos. I’d go the full ten, but as always, Valiant trades end too quickly.
Though I will say, this material clearly comes before the stuff I read in Ivar’s own book.
Sweet Home “Episode Four”
Comic Review: Undiscovered Country Volume 4
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #61 (June, 1968)