Rating: 3.5/5 – An Anniversary Hullabaloo Heavy with Humor and Hijinks.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.
I’ve always been a bit cold on anniversary issues, often left feeling that they are more fluff than anything else and manufactured to cash in on a plus-sized cover price. After Valiant’s last foray into the anniversary issue realm with Harbinger #25, though, I was really getting on board with the way Valiant approaches them. It seemed every story in that issue was an important piece of the overall narrative and the book served as both the perfect end to the series and a bridge to its future. As a result, I was really pumped to see Archer & Armstrong get the anniversary issue treatment. And while its “Anniversary Hullabaloo” was filled with plenty of humor, hijinks, beer, time-travel, secret societies, and conflict, it was more or less an amalgamation of loosely related tales a’la your typical anniversary issue. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, this may be a case where it just couldn’t live up to my own personal hype-o-meter.
The principal story in the issue, by series regular Fred Van Lente, did a good job of bookending the series and cleverly bringing things “Back to the Beginning,” as it was titled. It was a relatively quiet ending that had some touching moments and left the door wide open to the future. It ends by proclaiming “Never the End,” and as if to drive home the point, the rest of the issue crisscrosses the time stream to present stories of the past, present, and future. It’s the kind of thing you can do when one of the titular characters is immortal. As such, the remaining stories are very light on Archer and very heavy on Armstrong (and beer). It makes for some humorous moments, but I felt that by the end of the issue it had become the Armstrong (and beer) show. I love Armstrong as much as the next guy, but there has to be more to him than being the Eternal Drinker and there has to be more to Archer than what little focus was provided to him this issue. Writer and artist Joey Esposito tried to refocus the end of the issue with a touching ode to Archer, but at a single page it felt like it ended before it even began. What I thought was the best story, though, didn’t feature either Archer or Armstrong. Written by Ray Fawkes, “One Percent: The New Breed,” is a sort of prequel/taste of what’s coming next month with his one-shot “Archer & Armstrong: The One Percent.” It was twisted and hilarious and it leaves me wanting way more than a one-shot that features Fawkes writing about this nefarious sect.
Joining the who’s who of writing talent this issue is an equally impressive array of artists, including series regulars Clayton Henry, Pere Perez, and Khari Evans. These three have defined the look of Archer & Armstrong over the twenty-five-issue run and are among the best artists Valiant currently employs. Not to be outdone, Rafer Roberts lends his unique style to another comedic Justin Jordan piece and Andy Kuhn and Pez Lopez do an especially great job of turning up the evil in Fawkes’ story. Barry Kitson rounds out the issue by presenting a beautiful two-page pin-up that features the enormous Archer & Armstrong rouges gallery. It illustrates just how much story has been packed into this series over the last two years.
With Archer & Armstrong #25, Valiant brings to a close another great series with a plus-sized anniversary issue. While I didn’t think it was as tight or relevant as previous anniversary issues, it did pack a lot of humorous material that kept with the spirit of the series. It also demonstrated that while this chapter may have ended, there are still plenty of stories left to tell. It saddens me to see this series end for now, but I look forward to reading more about this unlikely duo in whatever incarnation their story takes in the future.
Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
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