Rating: 4.5/5 – A Nice Pause to Explore a Supporting Cast Member.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
Before heading into its 25th issue anniversary spectacular, Archer and Armstrong #24 takes a little breather from the one-percent, magical boons, potty-mouthed generals, dead celebrities, dinosaurs, aliens, time walkers, and lizard kings to tell the touching story of a family torn apart by death, money, and loan sharks. If you’re looking for the titular characters this issue, you may be disappointed, but not for long. This story is a great character piece that centers on Archer’s adopted sister and one-time love interest, Mary-Maria Conchita Alonso Archer. If the story of personal redemption doesn’t do it for you, then surely the host of deadly sword-wielding ninja nuns will.
Guest writer Karl Bollers takes the reins this issue to deliver a story that expands on the history of Mary-Maria. She’s featured quite prominently within the series, so it’s nice to finally catch up on some of what it is that defines her. She is apparently no stranger to the harsh realities of life, which ultimately hardened her up for, as she put it, “not the life [she] would have chosen, just the one [she] got.” It’s a compelling story with plenty of action and a nice twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. It definitely fleshed out and made me care about a character that I didn’t particularly care for one way or another before. One thing that surprised me about this issue is that it played it straight – after all, Archer and Armstrong was Harvey Award nominated for the Special Award for Humor in Comics. Aside from seeing Mary-Maria kick Archer in the face during a flashback panel, there really wasn’t anything overtly humorous about this issue. Still, I’m okay with that because the series has been plot driven for so long that it’s nice to focus on a character.
It’s also nice to see Clayton Henry tackle the art in this issue. Henry has been my favorite Archer and Armstrong artist since way back in issue one and also one of my favorite of Valiant’s regular stable of talent. Henry uses clean lines that never detract from the story telling and always focus on the characters. I especially love his many faces for Mary-Maria – mostly scowls – that make her look tough, but also some soft, tender expressions. I hope to see him continue to work on Archer and Armstrong in the future.
Archer and Armstrong #24 could have easily been a “zero issue” origin story for Mary-Maria, but I really liked having it placed in the main run. It was a nice pause in the overarching narrative that has been running full-steam since the series’ onset. It also harkens back to the days when you can pick up a single issue of a comic and get a complete story. The story was solid, action packed, and new reader friendly, even if the series’ title characters were missing. I hope we can get more straight character pieces like this in the future. The series certainly has enough interesting characters from which to choose and after this issue it adds two more.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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