“Archer and Armstrong: Archer” #0 brings readers along for the ride as writer Fred Van Lente and artist Pere Perez tell the tale of Obadiah Archer’s “adoption” by the Sect. This is a tightly-knit origin tale filled with conspiracy, code words and cover-ups, as Perez draws keenly-detailed imagery to reflect and enhance the narrative Van Lente delivers through the filter of some well-executed, imaginative caption boxes provided by letterer Tom B. Long. Truly, this comic book is a total team effort and it shines for it.
Some of the captions that Long provides that are filled with snippets of Archer’s past are formatted to appear as screen captures from a computer application while other pieces are given a distinctly different appearance, reminiscent of dictionary entries. The computer screens refer to Archer as CODENAME: PRODIGAL and deliver historical highlights of his processing through the Sect, complete with political insight, making these caption boxes a conspiracy theorist’s dream and raising the level of deception cloaking the past of young Archer. Van Lente isn’t limited to caption boxes, however, and does a great job of balancing Archer’s youth with his adaptation to his Sect surroundings.
Those surroundings are masterfully rendered through the great art of Pere Perez, who appears to be channeling his namesake in level of detail for those surroundings and degree of expression for the inhabitants of the panels of “Archer and Armstrong: Archer” #0. Perez uses dynamic camera angles and opens up space for David Baron, who does a fine job of keeping things atmospheric and energetic. The visual collaboration is amazingly detailed, like the desks in the classroom and the standardized tests on those desks, the paintings in the Nursery as Archer trains and the snakes rushing toward him in the latter pages of this issue.
Overall, “Archer and Armstrong: Archer” #0 is a sharp story that leaves the reader nicely prepped for the “Mission: Improbable” crossover with “Bloodshot and Hard C.O.R.P.S.” #20. Despite the “facts only” presentation through the caption boxes, Van Lente makes Archer a sympathetic character, but telegraphs a potential for unpredictability. This is yet another solid read from the fine creative teams at Valiant Entertainment and one of the best, most concise and informative origin tales ever. “Archer and Armstrong: Archer” #0 gets a double bonus in that regard for not even requiring the entirety of the issue. Truly they deserve a triple bonus for keeping the origin contained to ONE issue where other publishers would feel compelled to make a collection-length tale out of this. Those other publishers should take a good, hard look at this issue and try to absorb the proper way to handle zero issue origin stories.