Sunday, 20 April 2014

Archer & Armstrong Volume 4: Sect Civil War Review (Fred Van Lente, Khari Evans)

I like a good story/plot-driven book as much as the next reader but what I really like seeing, and this is partly because it rarely happens, is a superhero comic where the superheroes decide they’re not going to do what they normally do; they’re just going to be selfish and think about themselves for a change - maybe even blow off some steam doing something stupid! That’s basically what happens in the first half of Archer & Armstrong Volume 4: Sect Civil War.

The partnership is dissolved after Archer catches Armstrong in bed with his adopted sister Mary Maria in the Faraway (see Volume 3). Archer has decided to do a job for Project Rising Spirit in return for information of his true origins: obtain the Wheel of Aten which will control all of the Sects. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s brother Ivar decides to cheer his brother up by going on a time-travelling pub crawl!

The 3000 year pub crawl where Armstrong and Ivar drink history’s greatest beers was definitely my favourite part of the book. Artist Khari Evans draws a small Armstrong in the corner of the page showing how drunk he gets the more he drinks with stats detailing how much alcohol is in his blood, how many pints he’s downed, as well as info on the beer itself - ingenious!

Fred Van Lente’s experience writing his Action Philosophers comic comes in handy with this issue as the reader learns bits of esoteric history like the London Beer Flood of 1814, which is awesome.

Archer steals the show though. What happens when you get your heart broken? Well, Archer goes all super-emo, growing his hair out and begins Archer’s War Journal (like Marvel’s Punisher) but he’s still too Ned Flanders to pull off an edgy, angry tone while writing. “Some call it fried dough. Some call them funnel cakes. I call it Justice Fuel.” he writes, before heading to a McDonald’s where he bitterly notes that the Happy Meal only enrages him further - but he does like addition of the toy.

The Sect Civil War itself is good too though it’s a bit rushed to fit in between Archer & Armstrong’s mini-dramas. I’m not entirely sure who or what the various Sects are or what they’re about - like, what do the Gnomes of Zurich or the Hashish Eaters have to do with running the world? - but they’re an entertainingly varied and nutty bunch and how the Sect War concludes is really good for where the series is headed next.

Some comics titles start off well and lose steam the more it goes until the creative team needs to be replaced but Fred Van Lente’s writing seems to only get better with Archer & Armstrong. Sect Civil War is both my favourite volume in the series and my favourite Van Lente book so far - it’s a really fun comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously but still manages to have lots of imagination and intelligence to spare.

Archer & Armstrong Volume 4: Sect Civil War TP

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