“If you surround yourself with clowns, don’t be surprised when your life resembles a circus…”
― Steve Maraboli
With the release of A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #7, it can be said now that the title is back on track in terms of writing and artwork. ValiantFans.com president and founder Greg Holland made the statement (about issue #5) “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“ and he could not be more correct. A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #5, #6, and #7 have re-captured the same spirit and soul of this title that have made it a fan favorite for more than 20 years.
Writer Rafer Roberts creates a story and setting that is somewhat over the top in execution, while at the same time, completely appropriate for the buddy duo’s antics. From tiny clowns to a talking bear scientist (which is an awesome character concept by the way…) this story is fun, entertaining, and moves the A&A mythos forward. What is not understood is why Archer can basically use any power at will (flight, invisibility, shooting flames, etc); yet has not demonstrated these abilities in quite some time. By the end of the 2012 Archer & Armstrong series that ended at issue #25, Archer was easily one of the most powerful characters in the Valiant Universe with nearly unlimited potential (similar in many ways to Neo from the Matrix). However, he has appeared in several stories since that time (Dead Drop and the present A&A title) and has chosen to not use these powers or abilities (for some unknown reason) while limiting himself to hand to hand combat only. Regardless, A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #7 is very solid from start to finish.
Mary-Maria (who honestly needs her own four issue mini-series…) is up to her neck in drama with the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness. The events that have been unfolding around her are certainly leading to a major conflict, and her actions and dialog are completely in line with her character. Mary-Maria is one of the absolute best characters since Valiant’s 2012 re-launch, and her sub-plot is a welcome highlight in this series.
Artist Mike Norton is a very strong fit for this title. He captures the likeness of each character perfectly, and also the wild and vibrant circus setting in which their story unfolds. Norton’s work can be visually compared to a very good issue of Archie Comics, while colorist Allen Passalaqua’s colors are far more rich and with greater color gradient shading to show depth and dimension. The result is a quality animated look, that simply feels right for this book.
Additionally, A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #7 features an extra Davey sequence written by Roberts and created by the art team of penciler/inker David Lafuente, and colorist Brian Reber. Lafuente was the artist who worked on issues #1 through #4 and has a very blocky and cartoonish art style that works well for additional content such as this and side stories outside of the main continuity. While this additional sequence it a departure from what is normally within the Valiant Universe, it is a fun and light-hearted addition. As always, Reber proves that he can add quality and professional color to any and all art styles, adding textured backgrounds for nearly each panel and employing two shades of each color to create a color shaded two-dimensional world.
A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #7 is a three-ring circus of fun and complete clown show of entertainment. If you like seeing dwarf clowns punted into the air, and diabolically evil talking bear scientists, well then, this book is for you.