Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry's Archer & Armstrong is one of the best and most intellectually rewarding first issues in one of the best years for new comics in recent memory. It's really a terrific piece and after talking to writer Fred Van Lente, and seeing the previews of forthcoming issues, I have no doubt it's going to keep going in that vein.
It also feels like, arguably more than any Valiant relaunch title, it owes a little bit to the Valiant of old, and in particular, to David Lapham's school of cynical, humorous social commentary.
The world Van Lente is crafting in the new Archer & Armstrong really feels a bit like Lapham's Sparta USA, or even some of the bits from Young Liars. The social commentary is absurdist and in your face, and you've got part of America here that seems to be filled with semiliterate, obese jerks.
That's not to say he's unAmerican, a tag that he'll likely get fitted with by some after introducing his issue 2 villains The 1 Percent (seen briefly this month). Rather, there's an element of hyper-exaggeration in this title that hearkens back not only to Lapham's work but to the original Archer & Armstrong as well. These characters and the characters around them have always been played so broad that it was hard to necessarily take them seriously on a real-world level. It's the epitome of satire, playing things out to their exaggerated end in order to get the point across.
But while the original Archer & Armstrong left a lot of the stranger mythology of the characters to be discovered as the first arc unfolds, Van Lente lays a lot of stuff out there on the table this month, introducing cults and extraterrestrial elements early on, then abandoning some of them and pursuing others to set up this and future stories.
Van Lente has consented to join us for an ongoing commentary-style interview, as we do with titles like Rachel Rising and Savage Dragon, so we'll hopefully get to dig a little bit more into the thought processes behind this intriguing new title and see what's next now that the Summer Of Valiant is all but over.