“A Valiant Read” is a regular column in which we highlight some of the best jumping-on points for the Valiant Universe. Find out more.
It’s time once again for another round of A Valiant Read. This time we’re looking at Archer & Armstrong Volume 1: The Michelangelo Code. Written Fred Van Lente (Incredible Hercules, Marvel Zombies) and art by Clayton Henry (Alpha Flight, Ninja-K) and Pere Perez (Action Comics, Batgirl), this collection covers the first four issues of the 2012 series.
As usual, we’ll discuss the characters, review the comic, and much more.
Who Are Archer & Armstrong?
Obadiah Archer is a member of a religious sect known as the Dominion, which operates out of a bizarre Christian-themed amusement park in Ohio. Living a sheltered life, he is chosen to go to New York City to kill Armstrong, who the sect believed was evil. The 18-year-old is a skilled fighter thanks to his ability to mimic any physical skill.
Armstrong is an immortal wino who has lived for ten thousand years. Being a remnant of an ancient civilisation that was wiped out by a great disaster, he has been pursued by secret societies, religious sects and cults for years. He has a laid back attitude, who is more interested in quoting poetry and getting incredibly drunk.
Together, they’re an odd couple and an unlikely duo. Opposites in ideologies and approach, but somehow they click quite well.
Written by Fred Van Lente. Art by Clayton Henry and Pere Perez. Colours by Mat Milla. Lettered by Dave Lanphear.
Early into the debut volume of Archer & Armstrong, you can tell that there is a distinct tonal difference to the previous three Valiant series that have been explored in previous editions of this column. Unlike those series, who took their characters and concepts very seriously, Archer & Armstrong is much more lighthearted and silly in tone. It’s a series that’s happy to include humour and crazy ideas. As a result it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Following the trend of other debut Valiant volumes, this one establishes the characters and concepts for the readers and setts up what’s to come in later stories. Archer & Armstrong: The Michelangelo Code does well to set up the duo quite well and by the end of it you have a solid grasp of who they are.
The creative team do this by crafting a DaVinci Code style adventure. Hence the name The Michelangelo Code. The comic is well-aware of the similarities to Dan Brown’s international bestseller with Armstrong referring it to a “black ops misinformation operation.” From there, the comic uses the formula to go into crazy situations that include doomsday devices, ninja nuns, and even a wall street-inspired cult.
Archer & Armstrong also separates itself from the pack visually with other Valiant comics covered so far being aesthetically heavier in appearance. This has included the use of heavy lines, more detail, and plenty of ink. Archer & Armstrong’s Clayton Henry and Pere Perez opt for a lighter style, with finer lines, that don’t get lost in detail. This lighter approach is the way to go as it matches the comic’s humorous and sometimes silly tone.
Superhero comics don’t have to be serious all the time. Archer & Armstrong is a comic that knows how to be fun, with plenty of humour and silly situations. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to explore the Valiant Universe’s lighter corners.
The V Awards
Each edition of A Valiant Read I give out awards to various concepts, characters, and ideas. Archer & Armstrong is a perfect candidate for this kind of silly fun.
The Springfield Award
There is a scene in Archer & Armstrong #1 in which Archer is saying goodbye to all of his foster brothers and sisters at the Dominion. If you’re a long-time Simpsons fan then there’s one odd name that you’ll recognise – Bort. (For non-fans, this is the joke).
Worst Driver Award
While Rome is one of the worst cities in Europe for road traffic, Armstrong takes it to a whole new level when it comes to his driving. I guess when you’re immortal you can do whatever you want on the roads with little consequence.
The Wildest Enemy Award
Winner: Ninja nuns
While Archer & Armstrong has a plenty of odd characters, one of the wildest are the ninja nuns who live under the Vatican City. Watch out for the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness, they’re incredibly deadly.
Do you want to read more Archer & Armstrong? If so, these are the additional trade paperbacks you’ll want to track down.
Archer & Armstrong Volume 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior
Written by Fred Van Lente. Art by Emmanuela Lupacchino.
Collects: Archer & Armstrong #5-9
Archer & Armstrong Volume 3: Far Faraway
Written by Fred Van Lente. Art by Pere Perez and Clayton Henry.
Collects: Archer & Armstrong #10-13 and #0
Archer & Armstrong Volume 4: Sect Civil War
Written by Fred Van Lente. Art by Khari Evans and ChrisCross.
Collects: Archer & Armstrong #14-17
Archer & Armstrong Volume 5: Mission: Improbable
Written by Fred Van Lente, Christos Gage, and Joshua Dysart. Art by Pere Perez and Tom Raney.
Collects: Archer & Armstrong: Archer #0, Archer & Armstrong #18-19, Bloodshot and H.A.R.D Corps #20-21
Archer & Armstrong Volume 6: American Wasteland
Written by Fred Van Lente. Art by Pere Perez.
Collects: Archer & Armstrong #20-23
Archer & Armstrong Volume 7: The One Percent and Other Tales
Written by Fred Van Lente, Ray Fawkes, Karl Bollers, John Layman, Justin Jordan, Joey Esposito, Donny Cates, and Eliot Rahal. Art by Clayton Henry, Joe Eisma, Ramon Villalobos, Andy Kuhn, Rafer Roberts, Khari Evans, and Barry Kitson.
Collects: Archer & Armstrong #24-25, Archer & Armstrong: The One Percent #1, and Archer & Armstrong #0: Director’s Cut
Join me in two weeks when we spotlight the first volume of Shadowman!