Independently Well Done highlights completed and/or noteworthy story-arcs published by indie and small press creators.
Written By: Rafer Roberts
Art By: David Lafunte
Published: March – June 2016 by Valiant
When it comes to storytelling, especially in comics, the idea and execution of doing a book where there’s more than one hero is quite complicated and compelling. For a story to be able to support not just one superhero, but two, there needs to be an enhanced level of villainy for them to combat. Not only that, but handling two characters cleanly, while developing both can be tricky. When done well, fans and readers everywhere benefit. One such team-up book that is not only doing everything well, they’re taking things to a whole new level, is Archer & Armstrong by Valiant Comics.
This comic found its origin way back in the early 90’s when comics were hitting their highest popularity of all time. Image Comics had just hit the scene and did so with such an explosion that many other companies were caught in a very profitable wake. Valiant had been around for a few years but didn’t launch their titles until 1992. In that same year they did a crossover even called Unity during which Archer & Armstrong was born. I give you the history of this book because since that time there’s been a couple reboots, and some story changes, but it’s important to note that these characters have been around for well over 20 years. It is my opinion, having read Archer & Armstrong way back in the 90’s, that this current run is the best its ever been.
Within these, the first four issues, writer Rafer Roberts pulls from that deep history while simultaneously developing the story for new readers. This, in my opinion, is remarkable because he gives enough information and story for new readers to never feel lost, while also delving into the deep, rich history of the characters for long time fans. Beyond this, Roberts uses the past of both these characters to deliver his purpose and resolution for this story-arc.
As it’s always been in the comic medium, the visualization side has lent itself to a wide variety of talented artists. Yet, one thing exceeds even that of the amazing talent found within the industry. On any given book it is far more important that the artist fits the story rather than outshines the book. It’s at this point I introduce you to David Lafuente who has delivered absolutely beautiful art for each and every page in this series thus far, and is quite possibly the perfect fit for this story and characters.
Archer & Armstrong isn’t a super dark, or expressively serious, heck, Armstrong is an aggressively strong immortal with a bag of endless holding. Archer is a expert martial arts marksman who was raised to murder the devil. This is the tone and setting for this book, and the mixture of Robert’s storytelling with Lafuente’s art style brings such a cohesiveness to this book that you’re immediately drawn in and connecting with the characters.
After finishing issue four, which is where this particular arc ends, I found myself just sitting and appreciating what I read. First off, we get a great intro to these characters, which lends itself to both newcomers and longtime fans. Over the course of the next two issues we’re really given a glimpse into the lives of these two characters and the support cast behind each of them. Archer, with his sister who runs an all female ninja assassin clan ends up being a pivotal character in this arc. As are her desires to steal Armstrong’s bottomless bag, and her all female ninja assassin group. Both of these additions to the story help build out a bigger world for future issues as well as allowing Roberts to develop some very needed character history and connections.
Armstrong, who for most of this arc is stuck in his bottomless bag after falling inside when looking for a particular bottle of booze, really drives the tone and feel of this book home. He’s brazen, mouthy, brutish, and a punch first maybe ask question after type of character. It plays perfectly against Archer who’s a tactician, and in the end both characters are forced to deal with some past mistakes as the drunken demon of partying escapes the bottomless bag and runs havoc on a frat gathering. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. The main antagonist in this arc is a demon-god of parties, who escapes his prison—the bottomless bag—gets drunk, and ends up hooking up with a fraternity party wherein he causes even more reckless behavior from college students.
By the end of this arc I had a smile on my face, enjoyed every beautiful, well-written page, and knew that this book was going to deliver for a long time to come. There’s so much more exploration Roberts has at his disposal and his handling, along side the amazing art of Lafuente, is delivering everything new and old fans could want with these characters. With only four issues out thus far, not a deep commitment is needed to check it out, and each issue is available digitally for comfort and convenience. In this writer’s opinion, do yourself a favor and check out this fun and entertaining series.