I am not familiar with the original Archer & Armstrong series from the 90s, so I don’t have a basis for comparing the two, but that said, I found this book entertaining to say the least.
We learn the origins of the two characters, who are still a bit of a mystery by the book’s end. One, Armstrong, has ties to ancient Mesopotamia and appears to be immortal. (It is also implied that he is the only survivor from the Earth from that time.) Obadiah Archer’s origin is set in the present, with the boy gifted with the ability to duplicate any physical action he sees, making him an expert in nearly every form of martial arts on the planet and therefore the ‘chosen one” to leave his “family” and go forth and destroy “He who is not named.” His family turns out to be Christian zealots, living in a creationist theme park, where among other things, the Ur (from Mesopotamia), ancient Egyptians and Mayans are described as “heathen cultures” and there is a ride allowing kids to ride dinosaurs “like they did in cavemen times.” Obadiah has over a dozen “siblings” who appear to be kids abducted and raised to potentially be this group’s champion. One girl, Mary-Maria, appears especially close t him and it is revealed that at one point she ventured out into the outer world, but returned. He says his goodbyes and heads to “that festering isle of corruption and criminality,” New York.
He is overwhelmed by the overt sexuality on display in advertisements and, well, everywhere. Growing up in a theme park helps him adapt though. He uses a mystical artifact to track his target and it leads him to a dive bar, where he thinks he is saving a woman from an attacker, when it is really her boyfriend/husband and she attacks him instead. A brawl breaks out and the bouncer, Armstrong, who is busy reciting poetry, must break up the scuffle. The artifact indicates that Armstrong is Archer’s target and they battle, but their fight is interrupted by the intervention of a villainous army dressed in red, white and blue.
They are both taken captive and Archer escapes, leaving Armstrong chained up and makes some startling and potentially life-changing discoveries.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Both lead characters are interesting and likeable and the plot has the potential to work well. I’m not familiar with either the writer, Fed van Lente, or the artist, Clayton Henry, but both do a fine job here. The pencils are extremely clean and attractive. Great job! It’s especially admirable when you think that this isn’t a traditional costumed super hero book, so Henry had to make is interesting without the usual tropes to fall back on.
If I must find fault, it’s the stereotypical depiction of Christians as a) fat, ignorant and naive and b) secretly sinister and both of those appear here. I wonder how it must feel to be a devout Christian who happens to enjoy action comic books (or pretty much any other medium of entertainment) and to constantly see your faith either bashed or used in a sinister manner. Or maybe it’s just the Chik-Fil-A fatigue talking.
Archer, obviously a devoted Christian, seems to be a potentially intriguing hero and already proves likeable in this single issue, so maybe things will balance out as the story unfolds. Perhaps he will actually prove to be the antidote to the negative portrayals in this issue.
It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but I did really enjoy it and will definitely check out the next issue and maybe more.
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #1
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art and Cover by Clayton Henry