Publisher: Valiant Comics
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of immortality and whether or not it really is a desirable state. It seems very likely you’d go crazy after a few hundred years. Or maybe your perception of time, which accelerates as you get older, would become so distorted that the world around you would speed into an incomprehensible blur. One thing’s for sure, you’d probably get pretty bored. Especially after a millennium…or ten of them.
Just ask Armstrong…that’s Armstrong, no first name, no mister. Ten thousand years ago he was Aram, one of the Anni-Padda, three brothers who went to “the Faraway” and returned with a mysterious device called the Boon. When one of the brothers, Gilad, was killed, older brother Ivar activated the Boon in the hopes of resurrecting him. Instead, the Boon devastated most of the ancient world, but left Aram immortal and borderline indestructible. Having spent much of his incredibly long life on the run from an insane Sect that wants to re-assemble the broken Boon, nowadays Armstrong is less a superhero than he is a party animal, stripper enthusiast and very accomplished drunk, full of fantastic stories about all the historical figures he’s met…and, more often than not, partied with.
All of that’s enough to be the springboard for an original and entertaining story in its own right, but add in Obadiah Archer and you’ve got what some have called the best buddy duo since Batman & Robin. Personally, I disagree with that assessment. I’ve always been of a mind that Batman never needed Robin and is better off without him. So, by that definition I’d say Archer & Armstrong are numero uno. They’re really one of the few superhero/sidekick teams that doesn’t feel patronizing (about the only comparison I can think of is the Stewie/Brian relationship on Family Guy). The best partnerships are nicely dysfunctional, and A & A have that: two diametrically opposed personalities that suit each other perfectly. While Armstrong is crude, gutter-mouthed, gutter-minded, often tactless and physically massive, Archer is small, quick and extremely naïve (having spent his entire life sheltered from the world). A martial arts prodigy raised by Evangelical Christians in one of those Biblical theme parks where cavemen ride dinosaurs Flintstones-style, Archer’s speech patterns are formal and very much of the Commander Data stripe. He never uses contractions, speaks respectfully even to the enemies he’s beating to death, and “flipping bullcorn” is about as close as he ever gets to profanity.
The humour goes deeper and more trendy than that, though - one sub-group of the evil Sect are the “One Percent,” devil-worshipping Wall Street business tycoons who wear bull masks. Oh, and then there are the nuns. The ninja nuns. Fred Van Lente’s writing is clever, hilarious and very, very fun to read, and the art courtesy of Clayton Henry and Pere Perez is where a good chunk of the duo’s personality comes from. If you’re of a religious mindset or are easily offended by “stupid American” stereotypes, you might want to give it a pass. Trust me though, you’d only be cheating yourself. Between Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong, the new Valiant is fast making me forget all about those other guys…what were their names again?