Thursday, 2 October 2014

Archer & Armstrong, Volume 6: American Wasteland Review (Fred Van Lente, Pere Perez)


There sure are plenty of ‘rental issues in the Valiant universe these days! Quantum and Woody’s supposedly dead dad is coming back to haunt them; Bloodshot’s whole motivation is finding out his origins; and in Archer & Armstrong, Archer’s purpose in the series now is to find out who his biological parents were.

Archer’s quest takes him and Armstrong to the Church of Retrology in Hollywood (nothing at all like Scientology – the Retrologists are all about conning gullible celebrities out of their money) where a dead ringer for Jim Morrison, the Lizard King, sends them off to fetch the Holy Grail in exchange for seeing Archer’s folks. Except it’s held in a strange building (the Hotel California?) filled with dead celebrities who’re seemingly alive and well – what the hell is going on?!

Fred Van Lente’s sixth Archer & Armstrong book is a little lighter on the comedy than usual and feels like the kind of story we’ve seen before, namely conflict revolving around the Wheel of Aten. It’s not a bad book though and Van Lente has fun riffing on the many, many dead celebrities making cameos in the comic - none named outright, probably for legal reasons, though you’ll know them instantly. There’s Freddie, Jimi, Janis, Whacko Jacko, Tupac and Biggie, even Philip Seymour Hoffman makes an appearance in the celebrity afterlife! The celebrities are stuck there because people still remember them – they get to leave once they’ve been forgotten, almost like how religion and gods work in Discworld.

There’s Jackie Kennedy weeping forever as she has to watch her husband and Marilyn be together, even in the weird fame-afterlife with scores of Lee Harvey Oswalds wandering the hotel grounds, one for every conspiracy theory about him! Kurt Cobain’s still a miserable bugger even with a giant hole in his head, and the one celebrity who’s able to keep escaping from the hotel is Aron Presley – because “Elvis has left the building”, geddit?

American Wasteland isn’t the funniest book in the series but it’s still pretty decent and plenty readable. The inclusion of time-travel in the end was a bit irritating as it makes everything incredibly convoluted, and the whole point of it being used as part of an elaborate joke falls flat. But the parody of classic rock’n’roll covers are great and who can dislike a comic where a Justin Bieber-lookalike is… well, that’s a spoiler, but so long as you’re not a Belieber, it’ll make you smile!

Archer & Armstrong Volume 6: American Wasteland

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