Back in the day, “Archer & Armstrong” and “Eternal Warrior” each had their own distinct feel; the former was a buddy comedy with fantastical elements, the latter was a mixture of historical and modern day thrillers. “Archer & Armstrong” #7 has Fred Van Lente, Emanuela Lupacchino and Guillermo Ortego mix all of those elements together, but here’s the great thing: it totally works.
Van Lente is able to jump from one style to the next here in a manner that feels smooth; we open with a scene set in 212 BC and then slide into the present day without missing a beat, as we finally get Gilad meeting the new Geomancer even as Archer and Armstrong continue to fight the Sect and the Null. It’s a nice way to slowly build upon what we’ve seen so far; the Sect is being used as a stepping stone to guide us to the Null.
Generally speaking, I like the mix of serious and silly. There needs to be a balance between the two, and it’s something that Van Lente seems to take special care with. If we ever ended up with an “Eternal Warrior” series I could see Kay McHenry being a co-star with Gilad; her demeanor is the perfect antidote to his single-mindedness. She’s smart but has a nice easy-going streak about her, and I like that while she’s allowed to be scared after getting dropped into this strange new world, she’s still someone who is adapting and being able to get things done in her own right. Sometimes it gets a little too silly (like Armstrong’s answer to the riddle), but that’s the exception to the rule.
I’m loving Lupacchino’s pencils more and more with each issue, and if we ended up with she and Clayton Henry alternating story arcs I’d be quite pleased with that. Look at Lupacchino’s first big splash page, when Gilad discovers what’s been written on the ceiling. As Gilad turns you can see his cloak moving faintly, bringing that hint of movement to a static image. His pose is one that feels tensed as well, and it’s a great way to help use body language to bring across the idea of Gilad being surprised and almost disoriented by the discovery. She’s great at drawing action sequences too; turn the page and watching Gilad go up against the Romans is great fun. Each punch strikes the intended victim in a way that conveys strength and effort, and the take-down of the soldiers is satisfying in how you get to watch it all unfold.
“Archer & Armstrong” #7 is another satisfying chapter in a comic that a year ago I would have thought to be near-impossible to revive. If you’ve been resisting giving the new “Archer & Armstrong” a try, I think this issue is a good example of the way that this series — and the re-launched Valiant in general — operates. That’s a good thing.