Archer & Armstrong #1 – Valiant Keeps Cookin’

A Bible-thumping crossbow enthusiast and an immortal bar bouncer make a very unlikely duo.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Archer & Armstrong #1

As a guy who never read Valiant Comics in their original heyday, I'm surprised to find that I'm enjoying their current relaunches. X-O Manowar was interesting, Harbinger has been decent (although still a little too skeevy/rapey for me to want to write about), and most shockingly, I liked Bloodshot. While it will be extremely difficult to get me to read Ninjak, which I know nothing about but have used often as a synonym for awful 1990s comics trends, I hadn't even heard of Archer & Armstrong when I picked up the first new issue this week. Nonetheless, I found it a pretty cool read.

We open in ancient Mesopotamia in the realm of Ur, where Aram is protesting his brother Ivar's plans to try and resurrect their fallen sibling Gilad using some mystical item called The Boon. Aram knows the price of its use will be too high, but Ivar is insistent, and the result is Genesis: Chapter 7, wherein the Lord blotted out every living thing on Earth.

Cut to modern day, when a Christian fundamentalist cult family who lives in a theme park and is headed by Reverend and Mrs. Congresswoman Archer are subjecting their son Obadiah to the final ass-kickery test before sending him out in the world for the first time to hunt and kill some jerk they call "He Who Is Not To Be Named." Obie is a nice enough kid, well-meaning and earnest and full of dogmatic pollution, and yet he can still find beauty even in the den of iniquity that is New York City. His hunt leads him to a dive bar, and a bouncer named Armstrong, who looks an awful lot like a burlier, portlier version of Aram, stripped of any regal trappings to the point that he pukes on a guy to end a fight.

Af first, they fight together, before Archer realizes Armstrong is the guy he's trained to kill. thus fighting. Then they both get captured by some OTHER cult called The One Percent, whose plan is to nuke Greece by reassembling the Boon. Silly people. Too bad Obie discovers that his parents were not only working with them, but also don't give a damn about him as anything more than a means to that end.

This set up in Archer & Armstrong #1 feels pretty fresh and intriguing, monkeying around with Biblical themes and all. Armstrong is a big likable bloke, like a mix of Marvel's Hercules and DC's Vandal Savage (without the idiocy of the former or the evil of the latter – at least as far as we know so far). Writer Fred Van Lente is good with fashioning engaging characters like this, and the art from Clayton Henry is pretty solid, too, bright and colorful with a keen eye for detail. It's got me hooked for the near future.