Going Deep with Archer and Armstrong in ‘A&A’ #1 [Review]
Archer and Armstrong are back! Valiant's buddy caper comic, starring a sheltered young warrior and an uncouth ancient warrior, got its start back in the 90s, and was revived in 2012 by Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, and Pere Perez in a series that ran for 25 issues. This new title, A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong by Rafer Roberts and David LaFuente, picks up where that one left off.
However, while the last Archer & Armstrong was a globe-hopping, and eventually dimension-hopping adventure story, the story kicking off in A&A #1 finds the duo traveling within, rather than without. Specifically, the heroes are journeying into the bottomless depths of Armstrong's magical bag, which houses an entire world of goblins, monsters, and at least one very angry god.
Armstrong has gone looking for a specific bottle of liquor, the Lagavulin 1907, that he previously shared with a friend in 1953, because he has just learned that the friend died. Given that he's thousands of years old, Armstrong must have spent a lot of time toasting to dead drinking buddies.
At this early point in the story, I'm not sure if what happens next will directly connect back to the events of 1953, or if that was just a device to get him into the bag. But I'm not concerned, because Roberts is building a fascinating story either way.
The layering of threats to the heroes adds to the drama of the story in a way that really works. First, there's the fear of being trapped in the bag. Then there are the various monsters in the bag. Then there's the angry god, who controls some of those monsters.
And finally, outside the bag, there's Archer's sister Mary-Maria, leader of a sisterhood of assassins. She's been tasked with guarding the bag, but she and her Sisters of Perpetual Darkness may just have their own plans for it, whether Archer and Armstrong have a chance to escape or not.
So far, this story seems less interested in social satire than Van Lente's run. However that may change when future stories move out into the real world (or rather, the Valiant Universe, which resembles an exaggerated version of the real world, with magic and immortal vagrants). In any case Rafer Roberts maintains a similar light-hearted comedic adventure tone, which is exactly what these characters require.
David LaFuente's art is different from what we saw on the last series, but the characters are still immediately recognizable. LaFuente makes them look a bit more like cartoons, which I think is a great choice.
Specifically, his version of Archer always makes me think of a 21st Century Tintin, which is a definite plus. There's also a little bit of Hank Venture in him, which I guess would make Armstrong a mix of Henchman Gary and Brock Samson (it kinda works). LaFuente also has a lot of fun with the goblins, fish men, and weird Naked Lunch-looking monsters who inhabit (and escape from) the world of the bag.
As a fan of the last Archer and Armstrong series, I'm definitely on board for A&A. The story of the bag has a lot of potential, and I'm even more excited to see what world the pair travel to after that.
A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #1 is on sale March 16.