“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
― William Faulkner
Valiant Entertainment’s Archer & Armstrong has been a fan favorite title since first appearing in 1992. While there a number of changes that exist between the original 1992 series (which ran 26 issues with an EPIC #0 issue) and the more recent 2012 series (which ran 25 issues with two #0 issues), both possessed a certain magic that made them fantastic titles.
Beginning in 2012, writer Fed Van Lente re-worked the origin story and wrote the entire series. Lente followed with Ivar, Timewalker which ran 12 issues and was in all ways possible part of the A&A mythos. By the conclusion of Ivar, Timewalker #12, many readers and critics applauded Lente’s story as one of the absolute finest runs Valiant has produced to date.
When A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong was first announced in late 2015, fans had high hopes for the title. A nearly unrecognizable version of Archer had appeared in the Dead Drop mini-series (written by Ales Kot) which received mixed reviews at best, and the promise of a new series by writer Rafer Roberts was a chance to continue where Lente had left the title (while ignoring Dead Drop).
A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #1 was released in February, 2016 and was significantly different from what most might have expected. Featuring artwork by David Lafuente, the look (while interesting and as intended) looked nothing like what had come before or what fans were accustomed to with the title. The story arc which lasted four issues, was somewhat cartoony and a light-hearted parody of the title. With the release of A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #5, the title experienced a spike in sales and featured artwork by artist Mike Norton that appeared more in line with what long time readers and fans were used to seeing. Valiant Fans founder Greg Holland wrote “If anyone has been missing Archer & Armstrong the way it was in 2012-2014 when it ended at #25, just pick up this book and pretend it’s Archer & Armstrong #26.” The title appeared to be back on track.
A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #10 features two art teams; Mike Norton and Allen Passalaqua (which works) and Ryan Lee with Allen Passalaqua (which does not work). There are a few pencilers/inkers that should work on this series; Clayton Henry, Pere Perez, Khari Evans, and Mike Norton. They have proven to understand the look, feel, and style of the characters.
While Norton provides a clean, animated take on the title (which is beautifully colored by Passalaqua as his colors are top-notch), Lee is the “wrong fit” for this title. One of the more enjoyable characters and side-stories has been Mary-Maria and the Sisterhood of Perpetual Darkness (a character that Lente could actually create a series for and do fantastic things); however, Lee’s work on the “Sisterhood of Perpetual Darkness” and artistically jolting when mixed with Norton’s and Mary-Maria’s appearance is not handled well (proportions and face are off). Lee’s “Andromeda sequence” in A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #9 did work well as a vehicle for telling a backstory.
One of the problems that has occurred with A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong series has been artist selection, while also finding the right balance of humor with action. If the action goes too far, and the book becomes too serious, the spirit is lost. If the books becomes too silly (note: it is supposed to be silly) then it isn’t accepted by readers and fans of the title. There are a number of creative elements that have been attempted with A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong (such as Davy the Mackerel) are interesting, but have not caught on as well as might have been expected. The talking Bear Communist/scientist does work, and is awesome.
There is tremendous unexplored potential with Archer and Armstrong, and with a few small course corrections the title can go far.
Rafer Roberts is to his credit experimenting with different ideas and trying new things, and without question Roberts is a quality writer and talent, and recent issues (A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #5 through #9) have been entertaining and enjoyable. A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #10 is a mix of what is right, and what is not.
A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #10 has its strong points, moments, and laughs. It is a title possessing strong potential for greatness.