After reading and really enjoying the first volumes of both Ivar, Timewalker and Eternal Warrior from Valiant, I was reminded that the first book from the company’s current iteration that I really fell for was Fred Van Lente’s Archer & Armstrong. This book stars the third immortal Anni-Padda brother Aman — now going by Armstrong, and Obadiah Archer, the teenage religious zealot sent out into the world to kill “He Who Is Not To Be Named” otherwise known as Armstrong.
For me, there’s a lot to love about this series. First and foremost, it’s about two new friends who not only have each others’ backs, but also bounce wonderfully off of each other in the longstanding Odd Couple tradition. Archer’s an uptight religious kid with zero worldly experience and a lot of amazing abilities while Armstrong has quite literally seen and done it all, but still strives to defend the truth and beauty of humanity whenever possible (ie, whenever he’s sober).
The first book — called The Michelangelo Code if you’re a trade-waiter like me — shows a bit of Aman’s past going back to ancient Mesopotamia, The Boon and the event that gave him and his brothers immortality. We then shift focus to the modern day when Archer defeats his fellow warrior kids for the honor of hunting down Armstrong. This training takes place at a Bible theme park called Promised Land that also doubles as a kind of orphan assassin training ground.
Once Archer actually gets out in the real world and uses what turns out to be a piece of the Boon to find Armstrong he’s struck by the truth after goons representing The Sect kidnap both him and his quarry. After freeing them both, the boy learns a hard truth: the people he thought of as parents just used him to get the job done. With his faith in them shaken, he teams up with Armstrong to travel around the globe gathering up the rest of the pieces of The Boon.
Their adventures take them to Rome where we meet more of Armstrong’s old acquaintances and even Archer runs into a few familiar faces. Even with the appearance of the current Geomancer and the power of the Hitler-worshiping Green Dragon Lamas, our heroes still stop the evil organization from sucking all life out of those nearby to grant immortality to members of The Sect.
The first volume flows pretty seamlessly into the second — Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior — as Gilad comes after the book’s stars for leading to the death of the previous Geomancer. Understanding how the system works, Armstrong and Archer take off to try and find the next incarnation, a PR mouthpiece for Zorn Capital by the name of Kay McHenry. By the way, that’s not anti-capitalist, Zorn really is evil. He heads a group called The Null that worships nothingness and wants to return existence to that primal state.
Throughout the rest of the book, Archer, Armstrong, Kay and Gilad work together to put a stop to The Null’s plans. Along the way, we get to learn more about their pasts, see them interact with one another and also witness plenty of bullet-strewn action. For me, that overcomes the silliness of a group of rich people who want to destroy existence. That story never makes any sense to me.
I’m a big fan of this book now and plan on getting my hands on all of Van Lente’s volumes. I really appreciate the humor and action, but also moments like the one where Armstrong says he doesn’t understand why people are so worried about a potential afterlife when they have such an amazing world directly in front of them. That’s an idea I can get behind. Of course, it’s partially undercut by the idea that this world is actually full of supernatural entities, gods and immortals, but I’ll take what I can get!