Valiant Trade Post: Archer & Armstrong

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). Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Archer & Armstrong

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Valiant Trade Post: Ivar, Timewalker & Eternal Warrior

Even though I got into comics just as the Image Revolution helped usher in the Boom and Bust of the 90s, I didn’t know about much outside of DC. That was my jam and, while I’d see other books at the shop and eventually read about them in Wizard, I stayed in my line. Occasionally, I’d get a multipack or something with a random book, like Archer & Armstrong #16, but they usually just got flipped through, then slid into a bag-and-board and tossed in my “Other” box.

Of course, that version of the company eventually collapsed and, as it happened, lead to a number of former Valiant employees getting work at Wizard where I would eventually work with them. Now, Valiant’s back, Wizard’s gone and some of my former co-workers have gone back to working for the V. Comics is a small group.

ANYWAY, that’s all a long-winded way of saying that, though I haven’t written about them here, I’ve read my fair share of these trades. I’ll be honest, books like Harbinger, Bloodshot, Shadowman and X-O proved a bit too dark for me, but I’ve still found a lot to like from the company, including two related titled, Ivar, Timewalker and Eternal Warrior!

Continue reading Valiant Trade Post: Ivar, Timewalker & Eternal Warrior

Spider-Man Trade Post: Big Time & Matters Of Life And Death

amazing spider-man big time The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott, drawn by Humberto Ramos with Neil Edwards & Stefano Caselli
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #648-651

Want to know something? I’ve never really read Spider-Man comics. I’ve loved just about every incarnation I’ve seen on TV, some of the movies and really dig the idea of the characters, but every time I asked someone to recommend a definitive Spider-Man run from the modern era, there wasn’t much of a general consensus. That all changed in the past few years when Dan Slott took over the book. He was part of the rotation when the line was slimmed down to just Amazing Spider-Man after One More Day, but eventually took the reigns himself. I actually tried getting into the run with New Ways To Die, but it didn’t stick. Still, I wanted to give it a shot and Big Time seemed like the place to go.

And boy, was it! I think I’m in love with this run and have already requested the next six or seven volumes from the library. Much like with Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run that I love so much, Slott takes what the general public knows about the character while also incorporating new elements and (I assume) offering plenty of tasty bits for longtime fans. No, I didn’t know that Aunt May was married to J. Jonah Jameson’s dad or that JJJ had been elected mayor, but those details didn’t derail me at any point from enjoying the story. Even when characters with highly complicated back stories like Hobgoblin and Mac Gargan come into play, Slott conveys the exact right amount of information without coming across as a mega info dump.

But, you don’t stay on a book for so long just because you write stories that are easy for me to read. You stay on a book because you create great stories with characters readers can’t get enough of. I’m reminded of the love I had for Peter Parker when I watched the 90s cartoon. Sure he has the problems he’s always had (or new versions), but he’s also not a total sad sack about them as he was in Spider-Man 2. In fact, as these two books move along, things start going really well for Pete as he scores a killer new job. But these are comics and we’re talking about Spider-Man, so it can’t really last, can it?

amazing spider-man matters of life and deathThe Amazing Spider-Man: Matters of Life and Death (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott with Fred Van Lente, drawn by Stefano Caselli, Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, et al
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #652-657, 654.1

The fun times start to decline for Spider-Man and Peter in this volume as Smythe attacks J. Jonah Jameson’s family and loved ones with an army of insect-enhanced people who share his distaste for the former Daily Bugle Editor-In-Chief. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Smythe makes good on his threat and offs someone Jonah loves and, even though I’ve only read these few issues with this character, I’d grown quite fond of them and felt pretty darn bad myself.

Though nowhere near as bad as Peter who shuts down a bit before deciding that he’s not going to let anyone else die. Leading up to that, though, we get Amazing Spider-Man #655, an issue that deals with death and loss in such a raw, real way that it’s easily one of the best, most honest comic books I’ve ever read.

There’s a lot more going on in these books as well including the first appearance of Flash Thompson as Venom (which spun out into its own series), Parker’s new workmates and what they think they know about Spider-Man and not one, but TWO different costumes for our hero. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.

Most of all, I love how fully Slott embraces Peter Parker’s intelligence. Before I worked at Wizard and was exposed to a lot more comics, I never really thought about how Parker fits up there with Banner, Stark and Richards, but he does and Slott goes right in for that idea. Smart is sexy and nerds are cool. We need more of that pretty much everywhere.

I’m also a big fan of the artwork in these books. Ramos is an artist I generally associate with horror comics like Crimson, but drawing Spider-Man is in his blood! He mixes the flexibility of the character with the ability to capture facial expressions perfectly AND kill it when it comes to the villains. I also quite enjoy Caselli’s style and have since I first saw him draw Secret Warriors. And, boy, I hope Martin won all the awards for Amazing #655. The script for that was top notch, but the art came up to the same level.