Review: Archer & Armstrong #12

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While not without its flaws, this is another fun issue of one of the most reliably entertaining comicbooks coming out today.

SPOILERS

Let me start with the biggest negative, so I can end on a high note. I have real trouble with Mary-Maria’s costuming in this issue. I get that her change in attire also represents a change in attitude, shifting from viewing the Roanokes as idiotic savages to people worth fighting for. And that, of course, I liked. Her cynicism and selfishness needs to be shed if she’s going to stick around as one of this title’s good guys, so seeing that process begin was definitely a good thing. But why would someone who’s been trained so extensively in combat switch from an outfit that covers her entire body and includes pants to something with an exposed midriff and extended loincloth? She doesn’t, however, change her combat boots, making the whole thing even more ridiculous. She had to take those boots off, remove her protective clothing, put on the dangerously revealing Roanoke clothes, and then put her boots back on. What kind of thought process leads to that? It’s foolish and it’s offensive, making Mary-Maria illogically sexier in the action scenes than she is at the start of the issue. If there’s ever a time to show less flesh, its when preparing for battle, and having this character go in the opposite direction feels chauvinistic and wrong. It also takes away from what is generally very strong artwork from Pere Peréz.

The action sequences are lively and have a strong sense of motion. There’s a lot of alien gore that Peréz handles well, making it comedically splatter-rific without being disgusting. And he has two very strong and almost opposite splash pages, one at the beginning showing all of the alien pilots standing like stormtroopers awaiting the start of the battle, and then again later on when Ivar Anni-Padda is freed from his imprisonment. The former image is a massive crowd scene, and the latter shows only a single man, but they are equally impressive and full, grabbing the reader’s attention and holding onto to it tightly. Peréz also plays with varied layout and occasional overlapping panels to change up the issue’s flow, so that it’s hard to guess what is coming next. It’s very good work, juggling three locations and a good dozen or so characters without slacking on any of them.

Fred Van Lente’s writing is also on point, particularly the scenes of Archer having to argue with people from the future who worship a book he hasn’t written yet and currently disagrees with. It’s a fun idea, to have the rather immature Archer try and debate philosophy with people who are quoting his future self. And Van Lente has fun with it, getting a lot of humor out of relatively few panels. It’s also good characterization for Archer, reminding us that he’s still very much a teenager despite what he’s been through and his many, many talents. Yet clearly he possesses the potential to become a much wiser, more big-picture thinker, which is comforting to know and will be interesting to see developed.

Also, while I was irked by her outfit, I have no real problem with Mary-Maria developing feelings for Armstrong at the end of the issue. It is, I guess, sort of the easiest narrative choice to create a love triangle between the three primary characters, but I’m giving Van Lente the benefit of the doubt until I see how the whole thing plays out. Archer’s attraction to Mary-Maria is based on so little, and ditto her attraction to Armstrong, who is generally wise enough to see through both of his young allies’ teenaged bullshit and give them the straight dope. So once he figures out that Mary-Maria is smitten, I’ll be interested to see his reaction, which is bound to be humorous, full of tough love, or both.

This is a zany title, and the aliens-versus-Native-Americans conflict of this issue only amps up that zaniness. There are some clear mistakes and a few questionable decisions, but all told Archer & Armstrong #12 is a fairly solid chapter in the ongoing saga of this book.

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About Matthew Derman

lives in MA with his lady and their dogs. He most often writes about comicbooks on his blog Comics Matter: http://comicsmatter.blogspot.com/

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