“Archer & Armstrong” #12 continues the adventure in the Faraway, a strange dimension that time forgot. While there’s no doubt that Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez are bringing a lot of fun to this comic, there are so many elements vying for your attention this month that this comic feels less than the sum of its parts.
Any one of the additions to “Archer & Armstrong” #12 — dinosaurs, the missing Roanoke colony, the future cult that worships Archer, grey aliens, General Redacted, a surprise return of a face from Armstrong’s past, or the secretly homicidal Mary-Maria — would have worked well if it was the only focus. With this much going on, though, it feels like a big jumble. Looking back through the comic, there are so many different little elements that they overwhelm each other; moments like the New Roanoke’s Skymother feel strange and intriguing, but in a matter of pages it’s somehow pushed to the side and then gets lost in the shuffle. I wish Van Lente had held off on some of these pieces for a later story, or alternately extended this one to let each have a little bit more space.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of fun here too, and it provides a bit of balance for the information overload. General Redacted’s little redaction marks over his word balloons still elicit laughs. Mary-Maria’s sudden lust for power from a new source at the end of the comic is providing some fun times ahead, no doubt. And Armstrong’s fight with the grey aliens is a way to make what could have been a horror moment into something funny.
Perez’s art looks good, a strong match for the artists who have already worked on “Archer & Armstrong.” He’s got that clean look, one with an almost rubbery level of expressive and flexible characters. Mary-Maria look of power-admiration at the end of the comic is great, and the shock and surprise on Armstrong’s face when he punches the alien sells the humor in Van Lente’s script. Archer himself looks so wonderfully eager when he discovers who’s trapped in the Aleph that it makes the release that much more exciting; that’s what art in a comic should do, accentuate and amplify what the author already came up with. It’s a well-needed boost to a comic with a little too much going on.
It’s worth pointing out that a sub-par issue of “Archer & Armstrong” is still a fun comic; it’s just not quite as good as what’s been seen up until now. At the end of the day, it’ll bring a smile to your face and you’ll want to read more. But if this is your first issue, just understand this: it’s normally even better. Just get yourself ready for the fun that’s in store.