Fred Van Lente Talks the End of Archer & Armstrong's Sect War

archer-pyramid-schemeWith a zero issue on the horizon, followed by a crossover with Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps, last week's issue of Archer & Armstrong gave a resolution to the "Sect War" storyline while leaving fans with a lot of unanswered questions and a ton of new material to mine for the next few stories.

Where is it all headed? And which of these things will pay off sooner than later? Well, we asked Fred Van Lente, who joined to discuss the issue...

Reminder: These conversations are SPOILER-HEAVY. If you haven't read the book yet, go buy one and read along with us! Do you know how much research went into the pyramid design, statues and the like in this issue, versus how much was "what looks cool" or "what services this story beat?"

AA_017_VARIANT_WALSHFred Van Lente: I do a lot of research into historical stuff, simply because I like to, but always in the service of "what looks cool." The actual interior of the pyramid is based on the one in Giza, and I actually found a great layout on-line here. The actual burial chamber is based on the one in Karnak. And since there's all sorts of art depicting Pharaoh Akhenaten, we used a lot of that for inspiration too. How much background do you have established on each part of the Sect? Just enough to inform what you've already got on the page, or is there a lot more in your head that you might mine later?

Van Lente: I had to give the great Michael Walsh info design each of the new or new-ish Sects that appeared in "Civil War", and their historical antecedents are pretty straight forward. But no, I have enough balls to juggle I don't flesh out their backgrounds too much beyond what the story requires. We saw the origins of the Hashish-Eaters in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior and learned the origins of the Black Bloc here in Sect Civil War. When it's revealed that the Master Builders looted the pyramid--Will we be seeing the fallout of that going "public" in the near future?

Van Lente: Yes! In fact -- in the very next arc!  The Hashish Eaters seem like kind of a series of easy jokes, but in a story where Archer has been so dour, is it nice to have something like that to release a little tension?

Van Lente: Stoner jokes are so easy to write. They're like fat jokes: Always funny.  Is Snootchie Bootchies actually a battle cry for them or is it just this one guy who watches a lot of Kevin Smith?

Van Lente: I will let the reader decide.  The boys obviously get their resolution in this issue, it seems worth remarking on that Archer is overwhelmed by grief and/or conscience and jumps to Armstrong's aid before they really clear the air completely. Is that just a testament to the fact that he can't ignore his fundamental decency (and their friendship), even if he wants to?

Van Lente: Yeah, definitely. Don't forget Archer is still basically a kid and makes a lot of decisions based on emotions. And as this scene shows, those emotions can shift very rapidly without warning.  One thing I'd like to clarify: Are the soldiers who pledged loyalty to Archer and his "new dominion" all of the Sect members left, or is this just a smaller group that has representatives of each, a la the New Guardians over in Green Lantern?

AA_017_003Van Lente: No, Project Rising Spirit, the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness and the oft-mentioned, not-yet-seen Church of Retrology is still out there. The easiest way of thinking about Archer's new power position is it's like he's the dominant party in a Parliament-style legislature, or in owning shares of a corporation -- though he's not the sole voice in the room, he has the most powerful majority block of votes.

But there are a couple factions from the Sect Roll Call that sat out the Civil War ... and it will be interesting to see whether or not they're going to go along with all of this... Did the decision to give "Dark" Archer a mullet come from the '90s? I don't remember Archer ever looking like that, but of course lots of characters did so maybe I just blocked it out.

Van Lente: No, I just thought it was a funny gag. After having the hood on all that time, did you consider having him open it and be bald, like he was in some of the originals?

Van Lente: Was he ever bald? I don't remember that, but I'll take your word for it. How much control would you say Mary-Maria has over her own actions at this point? At different times in the story, it's seemed like she had some agency, and here she even calls Archer out for treating her like a prop, but obviously she's saying the words and (seemingly) doing the deeds that Mr. and Mrs. Archer are putting in motion.

Van Lente: I think her parents are a pernicious influence inside her mind she's not consciously aware of. While they're not influencing all of her actions, they nudge her in directions they think will be In addition to giving Mary-Maria and her nuns something to lord over the rest of the Sect, taking the timearc maps away from Archer and Armstrong deprives you of an "out" for a lot of stories in the form of time travel. Was that part of the plan, or is that a non-issue for you?

Van Lente: I totally disagree. If Mary-Maria has the timearc map, it gives us an "in" for a particular story. I'll admit I missed it the first time around, but it certainly does look like you guys actually show Archer's pocket being picked on-panel on page 8. Did you script it that way or was that a decision made between you and the artist? I feel like a lot of writers wouldn't leave it there and would just chalk it up to happening in the gutters.

Van Lente: Oh, no. That's in a script. And Khari did a great job of doing it in such a way (as suggested) that it would go over the heads of most readers. Next up, you've got a bit of a break from the routine, with the zero issue followed by a crossover. Is it safe to assume that you'll be seeding material next month that won't pay off until after the Bloodshot story?

Van Lente: Well, it depends on the seeding material you're referring to, but no, the Bloodshot story is very much a culmination of a number of threads that have been running through the book from the very beginning.