The horrors of immortality (variant over)

Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Steve Foxe
Artist: Marcio Fiorito
Colourist: Alex Guimarães
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

As you know I loved Archer & Armstrong Forever #1 as you can read in my last review. We also covered it on the podcast Round-Up for May. Everyone agreed it was a good book but for some reason only I rated it number one for the month. Proving again that I am always right. So does issue #2 live up to the first issue? Well, yes, yes it does.

As we know Armstrong has lost an ear which means his immortality has pretty much run out. Archer can’t lose his best friend and so decides to find a way to restore Armstrong to his immortal self. What follows is a brilliant road trip of an issue in which Archer and Armstrong travel the world coming across some absolutely ridiculous lunatic cults, creatures and people as Archer exhausts every lead he knows on immortality.

What I liked was that the issue opens with them fighting wannabe conquistadors, the Order De Leon, in order to reach the Fountain of Eternal Youth. Yes that is as bonkers as it sounds and I love it. This is what Archer & Armstrong does best, crazy sects and fun humour. I laughed out loud at Archer using the Flamenco as a combat move. It was just perfect.

Following the discovery that perhaps the Fountain of Youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (and will melt your flesh) we flashback to earlier where we see Archer trying to persuade Armstrong that they should try and restore the latter’s immortality. I said that the first issue nailed the dynamic between them and that continues here.

We have the world weary, knowledgeable Armstrong accepting his fate and young Archer determined to fix him. Their conversation is just so perfect for them character-wise. You have the young and determined Archer and Armstrong who clearly cares about Archer, not wanting him to obsess over this. These characters care about each other and that conversation reveals it so well. It was one of my favourite things about this issue In the end Armstrong decides the adventure would be better than playing bouncer.

The rest of the issue is focused on the two of them travelling the entire globe, following the stories of The Sect to try and find something that will help Armstrong. They go from vampires in California to giant fish in Japan. There’s magic mushrooms in Australia and Rasputin in Russia. There’s a side trip to Greece until they end the issue in Norway. The ending certainly sets up some intriguing possibilities for next issue.

The art really works to set the travelling adventures scene. I really love the thin panels that show a symbol or landmark for one destination on one side, a plane in the middle of the panel and then a symbol or landmark of the next destination. It’s a neat way of showing the travelling between different places without having to literally draw a map or have a lot of plane scenes. Not to say there aren’t plane scenes, there are and they are excellent. I love the different reactions of the fellow passengers to Archer and Armstrong and the fact each plane looks different from the seat layouts to the passengers.

The art also helps give each place it’s own identity. We don’t always see a key landmark or place but every destination feels different due to the art. There’s no mistaking the South American Jungle for the sea of Japan for example. You get the feeling of real globe trotting, which is really what you want. I also like how the art gives atmosphere as well, the campfire in Australia as they taste the magic mushrooms, the rain when they are fishing for a mermaid, it adds to the tone.

I also very much appreciated the action too. Whether it’s Archer kicking a conquistador type or a giant fish flying into Armstrong you can definitely feel the impact. I also liked the melting face conquistador which was suitably horrific. The continuity with Armstrong’s head wound was also excellent. Whether it was bleeding or the new tighter bandage it was always there and present and was clearly the same wound. As the loss of the ear is what started this book it’s great that the attention to detail is paid to it here.

Those hoping the Maw would play a big role will be disappointed. We do see a nice glance of sharp teeth and tongue but no more than that. I am honestly not bothered about that. I read an Archer & Armstrong book for the dynamic between the characters and the humour, so the villain is something of a secondary consideration. I can’t say he was missed as there was so much to enjoy without needing the danger of The Maw. After all Armstrong could die at any point so it’s not like there’s no peril involved.

I also have to give a shout out to Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering. The onomatopoeia makes the action work so well and there are some really nice touches from Archer throwing up to the rain the rain cutting into the edge of speech bubbles. So many great little touches throughout. There’s a fun aspect to the lettering which really works well with the tone which I liked a lot.

The colouring also works well. In particular the flashback to the conversation prior to the start of the quest not being as bright and obvious. It added to the overall solidness of the art. It’s clear real care was taken and some of the colour choices are great especially when Archer and Armstrong have partaken of the mushrooms.

I haven’t even mentioned how I loved the little references and throwbacks to earlier adventures. From the first outing of these characters to the underrated Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1. Plus the fact Armstrong’s bag is mostly full of alcohol. I enjoyed references to earlier runs in the last issue and I am glad to see that they continue. For long time readers that’s a lot of fun.

This was just a great second issue. This is everything I love about Archer & Armstrong. It’s nice to see they are being worked on by a creative team who just get it. The writing gets the dynamic perfectly, the art works really well and the lettering fits like a glove. I loved spending time with Archer and Armstrong this issue and I am excited to do so again next month. Really excellent.

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