“Archer and Armstrong” was buddy-adventure hit for Valiant Comics in 1990s
Valiant Comics were huge in the 1990s, and their focus on storytelling was a big part of that success. I recently re-read the first 15 issues of one of Valiant’s hits that also was very critically acclaimed: Archer & Armstrong.
The origin story of the offbeat buddy duo of Archer and Armstrong, originally featured in issues #0-6, was re-colored and put into a hardcover edition by the new Valiant Entertainment in 2009. Jim Shooter and Barry Windsor-Smith were the creators behind the characters: Armstrong, an immortal alcoholic with a heart of gold (we think), and Archer, the naive, conservative … well, archer … whose arch-conservative, but crazy, parents tried to kill him. Barry Windsor-Smith is the writer/artist who makes these characters come to life, with great characterization, beautiful art, and top-notch storytelling. Armstrong is on the run from a group called The Sect, who believe him to be the devil, and the pair get dragged into all sorts of adventures, including “Unity,” the early 1990s time-tossed Valiant crossover. This was one of my favorite stories back in the day, and it holds up well today. My favorite issue is issue #5, in which Archer & Armstrong visit the Riveira, where Armstrong owns a private island, and meet up with Armstrong’s stunningly beautiful wife, which reduces Archer to babbling. It’s got humor and adventure, and stands out as a comic worth seeking out. The story with Archer, Armstrong, and Mrs. Armstrong continues in issue #6.
Issue #7 gives a look at each character as Armstrong gets into a barroom brawl. In issue #8, a double issue, revisits the tale of the Three Musketeers, with Archer, Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior, Armstrong’s brother, in key roles.
In Archer & Armstrong #9, Bob Layton and Bernard Chang are the creative team for the first non-Barry Windsor Smith issue of “Archer and Armstrong.” (BWS will return for issues 10-12.) Armstrong is hypnotized by an agent of Darque. Under the spell, he is compelled to seek out and kill his brother Gilad, the Eternal Warrior. Archer must try to stop him. Layton has the voices of Archer and Armstrong down pretty well; Chang seems to be drawing closer to a BWS style than usual. Good standalone issue.
In Archer & Armstrong #10, Archer and Armstrong meet up with the time-travelling Ivar in London. But a group of timelost characters kidnap the trio. Meanwhile, the kid who stole Armstrong’s satchel starts to realize its power – and runs into someone else who wants it. BWS on writing and art.
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