One of the things I appreciate about “Archer & Armstrong” is that while there are some occasionally little hiccups here and there, on the whole the series is incredibly consistent. “Archer & Armstrong” #15 is a perfect example; Fred Van Lente, Khari Evans and ChrisCross’s comic has a different setting and cast than normal, but even then, the strengths of the series continue to shine through.
If “Archer & Armstrong” is the buddy-cop movie translated into comics, then “Archer & Armstrong” #15 is the part of the story where the two buddies learn that they need each other. With Archer having left Armstrong in #13, this month follows Armstrong as he and Ivar jump all throughout time. While Armstrong’s drinking is the one immediate constant, something more important starts to crop up: how much Armstrong misses and needs Archer in his life. This comic’s ode to friendship has been building throughout the past year, and at this point it feels like the point where each half finally understands the bond that they’ve formed. (Not bad considering Archer originally was trying to kill Armstrong.) Van Lente brings Armstrong through anger and dismissal before finally shifting over to an alcohol-induced sorrow, and if you’ve ever been out drinking with a friend after a breakup, this will all seem very familiar.
At the same time, Van Lente keeps “Archer & Armstrong” #15 from getting too maudlin. There’s a fair amount of humor in the story, and there’s even a little example or two that the Sect has been around almost forever, even as it continues to disintegrate and collapse in on itself in the present day thanks to in-fighting among the different divisions. Evans draws what could have been a gruesome scene — the spear going through Armstrong’s neck — and makes it hysterical as the staff continues to stick out on either end while Armstrong whirls around. And for a scene that could have been played for laughs, Evans and Van Lente make the London Beer Flood surprisingly touching.
Evans’ art works well. I like it best when he’s drawing Armstrong’s depressed, alcohol-soaked face in 1920; the looks on his and Ivar’s faces as they meet eyes is surprisingly sad. That’s not to say that it’s not good at other times, of course. Evans handles the energy of the fight scenes well, along with the humor. His info-graphics on the beer being drunk and how much alcohol is inside Armstrong add a nice bit of levity, and they’re depicted just right to get Van Lente’s joke across. ChrisCross’s art for the three-page epilogue is also good; it doesn’t jar in terms of a visual shift, and he’s certainly welcome back in my book.
There’s a lot going on here for a book that could have been dismissed as fluff. Ivar’s instability, Archer’s continued rage, Armstrong’s sadness over losing his friend. It’s another solid, entertaining comic, and I have to say I appreciate that I can always depend on this book being fun.