First off, the cover: Archer and Armstrong riding dinosaurs like horses being fired upon by flying saucers in a fantastic pastiche of North by Northwest. Right away you can tell this comic is a lot of fun – and it is!
The complicated, twisty plot of the rebooted Archer and Armstrong series is too much to summarise briefly in this review (and anyway is summarised neatly in one page in the comic itself) but suffice it to say, Archer is a super-assassin who was raised in an ultra-crazy religious cult (are there any other kinds?) who escaped their brainwashing and is teamed up with Armstrong, an immortal Falstaff-ish figure. Currently, they are in a weird dimension called the Faraway where history’s greatest figures who went missing (and a few dodos too!) wound up and apparently haven’t aged since they got there. In this issue Archer teams up with Amelia Earhart to defeat General Redacted’s (the villain) flying fortress while strafing flying saucers piloted by greys.
Readers of this series will already know of the simply brilliant writing that Fred Van Lente has brought to Archer and Armstrong and this issue is no different. One of the missing historical figures is Ambrose Bierce, a 19th century American writer best known for his satirical book The Devil’s Dictionary which comically redefines words and from which Van Lente quotes: “Coward, noun: one who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs”. Later, Van Lente offers up his own definition, giving his Bierce the line “coward is a brush fools use to paint the wise”; Van Lente is such a good writer he’s able to write lines Ambrose Bierce would’ve written himself!
A&A#13 isn’t the best place to jump on for new readers as this is the conclusion to the current story arc but it’s a helluva ending if you’ve been following along. General Redacted gets his comeuppance which is bittersweet as it looks like we’ll never see this delightfully batty creation again. As his name suggests, parts of his dialogue are redacted as he’s speaking them in an inspired move by Van Lente. Also artist Pere Perez does a marvellous job with the dog fight in the skies giving the reader a strong sense of what’s happening, rendering a complex scene easy to follow.
Even with a tremendous amount of imaginative action going on, Van Lente is careful to steer the story towards the core relationship between Archer and Armstrong. But the state of their friendship changes in this issue and this story arc ends on an interesting note that changes the setup of the series going forward. Regarding what happens to change it though is totally in character with Armstrong and how he’s been written so far as is Archer’s reaction, even if it does seem a bit irrational. What I like about this series is how it’s able to juggle different tones – humour, earnestness, emotional drama – without seeming forced into the book and keeping the cast in-character. It’s generally a light-hearted series but can switch quite naturally into more febrile territory.
Archer and Armstrong #13 is another great issue in this highly enjoyable series that gives readers a solid finale to this story arc. If you’ve never read Archer and Armstrong before, the first two trades are out now and a new story arc begins next month so it’s a good time to jump onto this title if you’re a new reader and looking for a fresh, exciting comic to start reading. Archer and Armstrong is one of the most compelling comics being published today and Van Lente and Perez are doing an amazing job with the title.
Archer and Armstrong #13 by Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez is out now
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