Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1
“The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.”
― Merton, Robert K. (1948), “The Self Fulfilling Prophecy”
Originally created by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Barry Windsor Smith, Archer & Armstrong #0 was released in July of 1992. The title ran for 26 consecutive issues before ending in October of 1994 shortly after Valiant was purchased by Acclaim Entertainment. Wizard Magazine called Archer & Armstrong the “Superhero buddy book of the decade” while the Sequential Art Research and Literacy Organization made the bold “Archer & Armstrong easily belongs on the list of top 10 comic series of all time.”
Archer & Armstrong #1 was relaunched by Valiant Entertainment in August of 2012 and featured writing by Fred Van Lente. The series ran for 25 consecutive issues and featured two zero issues before ending in October of 2014. The following year in January of 2015 Ivar, Timewalker #1 was released, written by Lente and featuring several artists from the 2012 Archer & Armstrong series which gave it a familiar look and feel for many readers and fans. Ivar, Timewalker was very closely connected to Archer & Armstrong, and shared a common appearance, tone, and feel. The series ran 12 consecutive issues, and is considered by many to be one of the absolute best runs that Valiant has published to date. This was followed by A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong in March of 2016, which was (to put it mildly) a mixed bag that failed to capture of the magic fans expected of the series. The first four issues were nothing like what had come before, and failed to captivate readers until issue #5 and beyond. The series concluded with issue #12.
Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 is a stand alone addition to the title, written by Lente, that feels familiar and appropriate as a part of the Archer & Armstrong mythos. It is humorous and lighthearted, but in such a way as to match the Lente’s fan favorite runs on Archer & Armstrong and Ivar, Timewalker. While not overflowing with significance, it is an enjoyable read that fans have been waiting for.
Artwork is handled by Carlos Alberto Fernandez Urbano (CAFU) with colors by Andrew Dalhouse for the main storyline, and then Darick Robertson with colors by Diego Rodriguez for the biblical flashback sequences. CAFU’s work is always incredible, never in doubt, and easily one of the absolute best investments Valiant Entertainment has made. Everything he touches has been (and is) consistent from start to finish, and his work on Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 is no exception. While artists Clayton Henry, Pere Perez, and Emanuela Lupacchino are often associated with some of the most iconic modern depictions of Archer & Armstrong, CAFU’s multi layered greytones created by Copic markers presented readers with a different artistic approach than they might be accustom to on the title, however, most certainly a quality and effective one. Dalhouse has fun coloring this issue, with a ton of opportunities to play with lighting effects caused by time arcs, the boon, and yes, Quantum & Woody using their powers.
Flashback sequences by Robinson work insomuch as looking into the past through the comical lens of memory and time; however, it is somewhat of a jolting experience to transition between CAFU’s highly polished, clean, and layered artwork and Robertson’s cartoonish style where mouths are opened wide enough to easily fit a baseball and eyeballs almost always seem to be “popping” out of character’s faces. Rodriguez is a highly talented colorist, who provides the quality work in these flashback sequences.
Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 is an enjoyable story that both new and old fans of Archer & Armstrong will enjoy. It is exactly what you have been looking for.