Although both of Valiant’s two comedy series, Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody, ended late in 2014, fans of either had something to look forward to in The Delinquents, a crossover between the two titles, which promised to be every bit as insane as readers could expect from a comic co-written by Fred Van Lente and James Asmus. The writers delivered on their promise, and the result is one of the funniest books that I have read this year.
The plot is every bit as wacky as you would expect given that the major MacGuffin is a map written on the skin cut from a hobo’s ass, i.e. an “assmap.” The assmap leads to the Horn of Plenty, the great Hobo treasure. Earlier in history, Armstrong had been one of the great friends of Hobo and had actually possessed the map, but it was split leaving him with only one half. Quantum and Woody, now working as sort of mercenaries/investigators (Heroes for Hire?), are hired by the Mondostano Corporation, a blatant parody of Monsanto, to locate one half. Asmus follows the standard crossover formula, having the protagonists initially mistake each other for villains and fight each other before discovering their mistake and teaming up. To his credit, Asmus does draw a lot of humor from this confrontation, so it may be conventional, but it is still worthwhile. Afterwards the four travel across America—via montage—and eventually arrive at Big Rock Candy Mountain, the hidden location of the Horn of Plenty.
While both writers are given “story” credits, Asmus provides the script. Obviously, he has written Quantum and Woody for more than twelve issues, and so they are perfectly in sync here with their previous appearances; however, what is especially impressive here is how well he gets Archer’s and Armstrong’s “voices.” Granted both titles are comedies, but each has a distinct tone, and it would have been easy for Asmus to simply ignore the Archer & Armstrong tone. The primary antagonist of The Delinquents demonstrates this more than anything else; a mirror image of “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski, he could easily have appeared as the villain of either title.
James Asmus and Fred Van Lente live up to their respective reputations by providing plenty of obscure historical references, and with the understanding that reality is often stranger (and therefore, funnier) than fiction, most of it is used for comedic purposes. It never ceases to amaze me how much research goes into their respective works, and, more importantly, how organically it is incorporated within the narrative. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, for instance, plays a major role in the story. That said, some of the best gags in The Delinquents are those in which reader need not have any knowledge of historical trivia—the final battle, for instance, is maybe one of the single most creative ideas (and jokes) that I’ve read in a long time. Yet, although (for me anyway) the biggest strength of both Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody has been the humor, they have consistently told a compelling story in their own right. In that regard, this book is just as strong as the titles that it sprung out of. The story is by no means simply a way of getting from one gag to the next, instead it’s someone that would have been worth reading even if it wasn’t nearly as consistently funny.
Due to his participation in this project, Kano was forced to leave Quantum and Woody halfway through the “Crooked Pasts, Present Tense” arc, which was a major blow to the third volume of that series. However, seeing his artwork here proves that it was a smart decision on Valiant’s part. His artwork is incredibly dynamic, which is great, because I think the script really challenges him to be creative in every aspect of his art. He also provides the full artwork—pencils, colors, and inks—and his colors, especially are one of the The Delinquents’ highlights; they’re bright and pop off the page in a way that it is very appropriate for something that is something of a superhero parody. I also like that he isn’t afraid to simply use a monotone color background to, which is something that is missing from a lot of contemporary comics.
One final aspect of his artwork that really needs to be mentioned is his design work. Quantum and Woody has really distinguished itself with some absolutely bonkers character designs, and The Delinquents carries on that tradition. Before, Asmus could rely on Tom Fowler (maybe one of the best character designers in the industry), but Kano is asked to create several new visually dynamic characters here and he demonstrates here that he is more than up to the task. My only hope is that we will continue to see more of the artist on other Valiant titles.
This is everything that fans of either series could have hoped for. More important, it is a great send-off for both titles. The only problem is that it immediately leaves fans wanting for more (which is a good problem to have, I suppose). Quantum and Woody fans at least have the upcoming Quantum and Woody Must Die! trade, but readers of Archer and Armstrong will have to wait longer. Regardless, this is definitely a book that everyone ought to be adding to their shelf.
Written by James Asmus and Fred Van Lente
Art by Kano
Letters by Dave Sharpe