Indie Comic Review: Archer & Armstrong #8

AA_008_VARIANT_FOWLER.1The 8th issue of  Archer & Armstrong accomplishes something I have not seen done in a very long time.  Despite the fact that it is the 8th issue of a series, and it is neck deep in the middle of a story arc, the issue is still accessible to anyone casually perusing the racks at their LCS.  Not to mention it is also an outstanding issue!

“Nothing is Forever.” That is the motto of the Null, the enemies of the Geomancers for centuries. Now, at last, the Null have found the key to the utter destruction of all that is – and his name is Obadiah Archer! Can the Eternal Warrior and his brother, Armstrong, set aside their differences long enough to team up against their compromised young ally – and will any of them survive the final battle? Plus: who has sealed a secret pact with the One Percent and what do they want with the mysterious, time-displaced land known as the Faraway?

Reading the above solicitation, it would appear that the story is far too complex for someone to just pick up and enjoy.  Too many characters, too much history.  But Fred Van lent manages to include all the pertinent information in the script  in a manner which is not often seen.  Characters call each other by name, there is a declaration of people’s powers (at least in general terms), and there are several relationships established so that the reader knows who all the players are and why they are allied with each other.  Best of all, Van Lente does all of this in a natural way which is not tedious or annoying.  The one time that it did seem a bit long-winded and over-worked, it turned out it was the setup for a great visual gag involving a golf cart, and all of the set-up helped sell it.

But far from an issue where it is all talk and no action, this issue involves great fights, plenty of drama, and the return of a character thought to be dead.  It is cover to cover excitement!  There is a real feel like everything is building.  The tension is continually ratcheted up page by page so that by the end it feels like everything is ready to explode.  Now we have to wait 30 days to find out what happens next!?!?

Van Lente is also playing the long game.  He is already laying the foundation for the next story arc, as well as a couple of sub-plots which may turn out to be story arcs of their own.  Chris Claremont was the master of this in the X-Men twenty years ago, and that led to one of the most compelling extended narratives in comics.  Now Fred Van Lente is setting up the same sort of structure in Archer & Armstrong and it has all the potential to be an equally impressive run.

The art by Emanuela Lupacchino continues to be outstanding.  The book is just as fun to look at as it is to read.  Each scene is full of enough detail to sell the environment and action without needlessly muddying the panels with extraneous lines, lens flares, and piles of rubble – just clear storytelling.

Archer & Armstrong is everything that is right with comics.  It is exciting, entertaining, and accessible. It pays attention to the present while laying a foundation for the future.  Want to know what comics should be?  Read Archer & Armstrong!

Archer & Armstrong #8 is in stores now.

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