- Writer: Rafer Roberts
- Pencils: David Lafuente
- Ink: Ryan Winn
- Colors: Brian Reber
- Letters: David Lanphear
- Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
- Publication Date: June 15, 2016
A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #4 brings us to the conclusion of Rafer Roberts and David Lafuente’s freshman storyline, “In the Bag”. Although this might be the first review for the series on this site, the issue actually lends itself well to a first-time reader. All the major points of the story are reiterated, either in the handy “Previously on…” section that Valiant loves to include, or in the actual dialogue of the book.
BEWARE: SPOILERS BELOW
The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #4 Synopsis
After being crushed by a dumpster at the end of the previous issue, Armstrong experiences something of a personal revelation regarding his mistreatment of his old friend, Frank. Although Frank has been haunting Armstrong these last three issues, it is only here in the fourth that we learn Frank recently passed away, providing the impetus for the adventure in the first place. It’s a revelation I feel hits equally well with or without the context of past issues. That’s actually something I’ve admired about A&A thus far: the fact that each issue introduces itself and provides a chance to be a beginning for a reader, which is something Valiant has striven for since day one.
After stripping Bacchus of his power source (and amping him up on coffee) the possible deity is handily defeated by Mary-Maria and her Sister of Perpetual Darkness, and we move into the third act. This is where the comic, and the characters (yes, even in the Van Lente run) really shine. A&A is wonderful when combating various supernatural beings or busting conspiracy cults, but the best writing has always come in the more character-centric moments. For this issues, that means Archer and Mary-Maria’s sibling interaction, and especially the touching scene at the end between Armstrong and Murial, Frank’s wife, which I won’t spoil, because I think it deserves reading.
The star of the issue is Bacchus the God of Wine and Revelry. Having finally escaped from Armstrong’s satchel after thousands of years, he’s out for revenge and – on, no, just a big party. A huge party. And that’s bad. So how do our heroes defeat the God of Literally Getting Drunk on Power? By taking away his drunken revelers. Much of the humor in the middle part of this issue derives from playing a few stereotypes. Normally, I’m not a fan of doing so, but Roberts has an eye for lowbrow humor that Lafuente masterfully executes. Bros get into a fight because they’ve all, apparently, slept with each others’ sisters and girlfriends; ladies get trapped in a doll emporium with a strange man who talks to them (the dolls); and no one working at the
Starbucks Starbutts actually enjoys it. These are all pretty old and tired, but the series hasn’t exactly been ‘mature’ in its humor so far.
Not that immature humor is bad, necessarily. It was off-putting at the beginning for me, being a huge fan of Fed Van Lente’s run on Archer & Armstrong from the 2012 relaunch, but I’ve settled into it just as Roberts has. That’s actually something I’ve struggled with, and will likely bring up again in this review and any future ones: the previous series. But, I don’t want to dwell too heavily in that, as this is a different creative team, a different vision, and as such deserves the chance to be its own comic.
With all respect to David Lafuente’s art, I must admit I was not a fan originally. Sure, a lot of that was holdover from the Van Lente era, but at the same time, I felt the art was too cartoony, for whatever that’s worth. Having dwelled on it, and experienced a full story, I must retract my hitherto unvoiced objections. Lafuente really capture’s Roberts’ tendency for gross-out type humor and isn’t too dissimilar to Roberts own art. More importantly, every character in every panel emotes, which sounds like a simple statement, but is much harder to perform in practice.
Overall, A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #4 is a wonderful issue that brings a surprisingly emotional story to an equally emotional close. The creative team feels absolutely in tune with one another and are able to grasp the complex task of comedic timing without natural fluidity. They work so well together, it’s easy to forget it isn’t all written, drawn, colored, and inked by one person, but by a team, which only proves how well Valiant crafts their creative teams. Despite initial misgivings, I can proudly say that I’m looking forward to much more on this title – and that the next two issues look to be excellent jumping-on points as well for new readers.
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