Graphic Novel Review: ‘Archer and Armstrong Vol. 1: The Michelangelo Code’

Collecting: Archer & Armstrong #1-4

Original Release Date: 2012

Publisher: Valiant Comics

Character(s): Obidiah Archer, Armstrong (Aram Anni-Pada)

Writer: Fred Van Lente

Artist: Clayton Henry

 

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Storyline – 9
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 8
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 9
Fluidity – 7
Intrigue/ Originality – 10
The Little Things – 10
Overall Awesomeness – 9

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Valiant Comics have been around for quite sometime, although they have gone through many changes since they started in 1989 under the leadership of Jim Shooter and Bob Layton as a company titled Voyager Communications. Through time, they went through two huge changes in the company – including being owned by Acclaim (the now defunct video game publisher that owned Mortal Kombat before being forced to sell it to WB) before they had hardships and shut down. In 2009, they became Valiant Entertainment under the new management of Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari.

One of their most popular franchises through all of this is exactly what we are going to talk about today, Archer and Armstrong, which not only has been deemed one of the most important comic book teams aside the like of Batman and Robin, but they even have a film in development at the moment. Before all that, though, we got Volume 1 of their first series under the Valiant name, which in itself is a parody title poking fun at The DaVinci Code, titled The Michelangelo Code. Obviously this means it touches on secrets of art, religion and how they have aged in time. So, here we go! Let’s begin diving into Volume 1 of Archer & Armstrong, just in time for their new series starting this Wednesday titled A&A.

1

It may seem like a heavy subject to tackle in a buddy comedy comic book, but Archer & Armstrong pushes the limits of topics like religion and how corrupt it can be when it comes to power. Hilarious, right? Well stay with me! This first volume collect issues #1-4 out of the 25 issue series run and things get crazy pretty fast as we start out way back in the past and see a family that has assembled a huge weapon only to figure out it wipes out humanity and grants immorality to one person. As they plan to have a ceremony to activate this weapon, a man named Aram shows up to stop it; tragically, he is too late and has to see everyone die, leaving him alone for what seems like eternity.

We then flash to the present where we see a religious amusement park where the character Obidiah Archer has lived his whole life into adulthood being taught just about every fighting style in history to get ready for a secret mission his parents have for him. We learn this park is run by a couple who identify themselves and their group as The Sect, and have been training tons of kids to become their own personal religious army, while basically keeping them hostage at this amusement park. The mom and dad of this group announce they are sending Archer, their only actual son, out on his mission and he learns he is to hunt down a man they simply call “The Man Who Should Not Be Named.” No, it isn’t Voldemort this time; in fact, it’s none other Aram, who is now known as Armstrong, and during his time on earth has become an abrasive drunk. What would anyone else do when you live forever?

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This is just the setup to the story and to not give too much away we see these two finally meet up and both of them come to a realization about themselves and life and become a team despite both their lives contradicting such a thing more than 100%. As they team together, Archer’s world is thrown into an upheaval and everything he thinks he knows is proven wrong, with his inhibitions being challenged by Armstrong and his abrasive, often offensive nature. They travel the world on their new mission, gain new friends, lose some old ones, and Armstrong drinks the whole time, or at least whenever he can. The teaming of these two is almost as perfect as the teaming of Quantum & Woody, another Valiant title, which they just happen to team up for a series where they made a team called The Delinquents. But that title is for a different time. Let’s speak of the creators behind his awesome series.

The writer for this novel and almost the whole of this series is Fred Van Lente who has written for almost every single comic company including Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Image, and Dynamite among other smaller companies. He is a great writer no matter which characters he is writing, but Archer & Armstrong are my favorites of his. Clayton Henry as the artist brings his A game and experience to the title, giving us some of the best art from Valiant’s series of relaunches. Henry’s art can be seen across many companies as well, even as the artist in one issue of a little unknown book – well, until recently – titled Big Hero 6 from Marvel. These two creative minds come together for this novel almost as well as Archer and Armstrong themselves and prove that this series is a powerhouse on every level and that Valiant and the talent behind their books should be taken just as serious if not more so than the big two companies of Marvel and DC.

You can find The Michelangelo Code fairly cheap on Amazon. Make sure and pick up their new book A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong, available as a digital exclusive at ComiXology now!

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All media credited to Valiant Entertainment

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