Sit back, relax and enjoy this issue

Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Steve Foxe
Breakdowns: Phil Hester
Artist: Marcio Fiorito
Colourist: Alex Guimarães
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover Artist: Bernard Chang

The short version of this review is basically – excellent book I loved it, and it’s hard to say more without spoilers. However I shall attempt to. Here we are at the sort of end to this first arc. I say “sort of end” because things that happen this issue will no doubt kickstart the new arc but they all flow from each other so it’s not really any kind of ending, There is some resolution however, and it goes into an area that I did not expect. I shall attempt to avoid spoilers because honestly the emotional gut punches and literal bites impact more if you don’t have a clue what’s coming.

When last we left our intrepid duo and their new third wheel – Frig – they were in the clutches of The Maw who found them rather tasty. If you wanted to know more about The Maw then this issue does flesh out the mysterious character. In a way pretty literally as it turns out flesh is rather important to The Maw’s powers and skillset. The idea of a being eating flesh and gaining the powers of the beings it eats or bites is not necessarily a new idea in comics, but The Maw is certainly an interesting take on it.

The main focus this issue, as it has been through the run so far, is Archer, Armstrong and their friendship. There are some truly wonderful character moments with the two of them this issue, both spoken and some just in the art. There’s some real insight I was not expecting and the depth of their friendship really does give this issue a solid emotional punch. There’s a twist toward the end with immortality which gives their friendship a whole new direction, and looks like it will be explored in the next arc. I am looking forward to that because the dynamic between the two of them is still important and there’s all kinds of implications I will be interested to see the consequences of.

I am trying to keep plot details light but I did enjoy this issue. The collection angle appears again with a private army appearing to ‘rescue’ our heroes from The Maw (and The Faraway) only for them to find out they are actually there to collect Armstrong. Through a collection related flashback we get an insight into what Armstrong was doing in the 70’s. It’s not real surprise it involved drinking and breaking things. Armstrong’s character was pretty consistent throughout much of history until he met Archer. Still, it’s a nice, insightful little flashback.

Those wanting action will also not be disappointed as there’s plenty of it! Archer gets in some of his trademark ass kicking and Frig defends the honour of her tribe. There’s a great pacing with the action and the art. It’s a really well paced read generally and the action is depicted very strongly with some nice little flourishes of gore creeping in here and there. After-all the stakes this issue get very high, perhaps higher than they’ve been before in this run with some serious mortal danger and the art doesn’t skimp on showing that with some really shocking moments.

Look at me desperately creeping around spoilers.

I do enjoy the art and feel that it nicely pairs with the tone of the story being told. Most of the issue takes place in the snowy mountains so there’s a lot of plain, white background going on, but in fact it’s far more interesting than that. The action panels burst with colour, really making an impact. There’s also the fact the white background allows the characters to standout more and there’s little character background moments that might have gone unnoticed in a busier environment but here they are nicely highlighted against an otherwise plain background.

I need to give a special shout out to the lettering this issue too. There is a great deal of humour in the way Armstrong’s various colourful phrases get censored. We know Armstrong is no stranger to strong language but the way it’s covered up in different ways is really fun. Then there’s The Maw’s speech which is ragged and stands out, styled to look the way it sounds, reptilian, which fits with The Maw’s character design, the tongue and mouth especially. The exclamations of the characters too work superbly well from them yelling each other’s names to Armstrong’s pronouncement of ‘gross’ depicted as green goo. All in all it’s very effective.

Also a shout out to Frig who again proves herself an interesting and worthwhile addition to this universe. She gets some really good moments and I was glad to see she wasn’t forgotten about and actually plays a part in the chaos. Frig has that primal anger and distain for humans mixed with a strange sense of honour. She provides a solid contrast to Archer and Armstrong whilst there are still some similarities, mostly the fighting spirit.

This was an issue that kept me on the edge of my seat. At points I gasped out loud. The tension as our heroes battle The Maw and the small army brought to collect Armstrong is well realised but there’s also humour mixed in. There’s some lovely character moments, character insight and some really rather emotional moments in amongst the humour and tension. It’s a well paced and well balanced issue that really is just excellent. I have been loving this run of Archer & Armstrong and the quality of writing, art, colouring and lettering remains so strong. With the twisty shock ending I am really interested to see where this goes next.

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