Archer & Armstrong #8

In "Archer and Armstrong" #8, Fred Van Lente and Emanuela Lupacchino pit the Geomancer, The Eternal Warrior, Archer and Armstrong in a race against time as they try to thwart the cult-like doomsday plans of The Null and its leader Zorn.

Van Lente's vision for "Archer and Armstrong" has always had an international, historically rich scope of setting, and this issue is no exception. The opening scene, set in Gilad and Aram's past, has the brothers talking to Omar Khayyam, an 11th century Persian poet and philosopher, later immortalized to western audiences by Edward Fitzgerald's 1859 translation of "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam." Van Lente's imagination lends verisimilitude to the idea of The Eternal Warrior and Armstrong as immortal beings.

This semi-historical scene also sparkles with the back-and-forth between the ever-serious Eternal Warrior and the fun-loving Armstrong. The personality difference between the brothers, obvious in the contrast between Gilad's sacred mission versus Armstrong's Epicurean shenanigans, continues to be one of the most amusing and enjoyable features of Van Lente's dialogue and plotting.

Van Lente's imaginative narrative choices can also have drawbacks, however. The major villains in "Archer and Armstrong" are The One Percent and The Null. The first organization is dedicated solely to greed, the other to oblivion. In "Archer and Armstrong" #8, these conceptual villains are given more of the stage. These middle passages drag with the robotic dialogue of Zorn's followers, and accordingly, the dramatic tension weakens, especially because Armstrong isn't around in those scenes to spice things.

Zorn and his followers are a manifestation of chaos working toward a state of nullity. They come off as an idea and not real people. This lack of humanity necessarily a problem, but since the heroes are much more three-dimensional and have sympathetic human motives, the imbalance really stands out.

Lupacchino's storytelling is pleasingly smooth. Her backgrounds are detailed yet they still feel spacious because of her very clean line. Her settings and bodies continue to have excellent sense of shape, depth and proportion, and her costume choices feel like an extension of the characters' personalities. I am less sure about a specific detail in Obie/Archer's eyes in the final panel. It seems over-literal, yet it fits with the themes and open symbolism of Van Lente's writing.

The twist in the climax of "Archer and Armstrong" #8, when Archer comes face to face with Zorn, is heavily foreshadowed. However, the exact details are still surprising. The last page has an excellent cliffhanger that involves the fate of the Geomancer, and seems to aptly sum up how "Archer and Armstrong" is a consistently entertaining buddy comedy with an unusually fine sense of setting and internal mythology.

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