Or – “Ninja + Nun = Nunja!”
Archer & Armstrong has been one of the big surprises of the Valiant relaunch for me, taking a property that I was only kind of familiar with and making it a must-read with the first issue. Can they keep up their streak of entertaining issues? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #3
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist(s): Clayton Henry with Pere Perez
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Editor Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously, in Archer & Armstrong: Obadiah Archer was raised by his parents as part of a secret sect, to defeat and destroy the evil of He Who Shall Not Be Named. Of course, the discovery that HWSNBN is actually a charming, super-strong immortal named Armstrong, and that his parents consider him a failure, and also that the entire basis of his life and beliefs has been a lie. Joining forces with his lifelong enemy, Archer has found himself battling another secret society, this one called the Sisters Of Perpetual Darkness, warrior nuns from the Vatican who want both him and Armstrong’s heads on pikes. That’s much worse than the old ruler to the back of the hand trick…
ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE…
The issue opens with a bit of mystery, as we see the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness welcoming their latest acolyte into the fold, moments before A&A bust in and start cracking holy skulls. The interplay between the characters is wonderful, as Archer refuses to hit his foes (though whether it’s that they’re women or that they’re women of the cloth is still up in the air) while Archer cleverly introduces his little buddy to something called “The Cannonball Special.” (I’m quite sure this is an X-Men shout-out.) The battle leads them to the final clue that identifies where The Torque (part of the six-piece Maguffin that Archer’s parents want) is hidden, and also a stash of fine wines, which Armstrong partakes of. Van Lente is on somewhat familiar terms here after his run on Incredible Hercules (drunken immortal hedonist with strange young protegé, walking the earth and having adventures) but this issue crackles with awesome dialogue and inventiveness, as they end up in the Sistine Chapel, finding that the newest Sister is actually Archer’s sister!
“MY FAITH IS NOT SO WEAK THAT IT IS THREATENED BY A DIFFERING OPINION.”
Mary-Maria manages to steal back the Torque, and even celebrates with her little brother before she realizes that Obie has switched allegiances, and goes a little bit berserk. The art is quite excellent throughout the issue, with special kudos for the panel where an enraged Mary shoots Archer in both his eyes, as the genuine rage and loathing in her face is wonderfully rendered. Art-wise, this issue reminds me of a forgotten old favorite, Blood Syndicate, and Clay Henry’s pencils capture expressions and kung-fu moves with equal skill. Mary-Maria and Obadiah finally get to declare their love for one another, right before she shoots everyone and hightails it for the sixth piece of The Boon. Archer has an epiphany (thanks to the death of a supporting character) and Armstrong has a plan, since it was he who actually hid the sixth piece decades ago. The last page reveal is goofy and brilliant all at once, and makes me wonder what other madness is up their sleeves with #4.
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD STUFF, INTELLIGENT AND SILLY ALL AT ONCE.
This is fun. The use of “nunja” is itself worth the price of admission, but the thickening plot is well-handled, the art is awesome, and it’s clear why our protagonists have teamed up: They need each other to balance out. Character-wise, I find this incarnation of the heroes to be superior to the original (where Archer was kind of annoying, to be honest) and Archer’s use of fake curse words to express his frustration is a scream. Archer & Armstrong #3 keeps the streak intact, delivering an entertaining reading experience that’s multi-layered and fun, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!