By Todd Allen
When the teasers for Archer and Armstrong #1 came out, there was a little bit of noise from the political parts of the web about what an awful liberal smear job the book was because of some villains billing themselves as the 1%. I’d gotten a good laugh out of villains calling themselves the 1% and wearing golden masks of bulls and bears (an obvious stock market joke) and I figured the usual noisy political types might be over-reacting. Come to find out, Archer and Armstrong is a much more political book than I was expecting. It’s also utterly hilarious. Unless you’re a dogmatic Republican with limited-to-no sense of humor. If you’re one of those, stay FAR away from this comic. It will set you off.
This gem is written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Clayton Henry. It opens with a straight forward scene of ancient Ur (as in Mesopotamia and The Epic of Gilgamesh) where a mysterious device is set off which destroys civilization. And if you’re a fan of the old Eternal Warrior comic, there’s an Easter egg in there for you. Flash ahead to modern times and a Christian fundamentalist theme park which teaches you how dinosaurs and cavemen lived together.
Here we meet the extremely earnest Obadiah Archer, son of a Reverend and a Senator. Obie, as he’s called, has been raised in this amusement park (yes, expect home-schooling references). He’s not seen the outside world. He’s been raised as a warrior to go forth and slay “The Man of Sin.” Specifically, they’re sending him to “that festering isle of corruption and criminality.” Yes, New York.
Of course, things are not what they seem. This is a comedy of cults. A fundamentalist cult in the beginning. The 1% taking an amusing turn as a pagan cult at the end. Add a drunken immortal caught in the middle of a struggle for the pieces of an ancient artifact of great power. It’s a hoot.
The deadpan delivery is what makes this comic work. Obie Armstrong is the naive fish out of water who doesn’t realize how absurd most everything he says is. Everything is taken literally. Think Stephen Colbert, but trained by Bruce Lee. This book might be described as The Colbert Report with superheroes. Archer and Armstrong aren’t *quite* superheroes. Valiant tends to keep things an inch away from superheroes, but it’s close enough for an analogy. You have a true believer and an old cynic thrust together in the midst of an ancient (and sarcastic) conspiracy.
The sense of humor is what sets this comic apart. The surrealism of contrasting some of the more extreme social/political tropes of the day with actual cults is both breezy and biting, which isn’t the easiest thing to pull off.
Highly recommended for those who like to watch Comedy Central’s news-ish offerings. Highly not recommended for people of a far right wing bent who take dogma too seriously.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.