All-new jumping on point is a term most publishers use to attract new readers. In the case of Archer & Armstrong #20 that statement couldn’t be any more true, as this issue takes the team in a completely new direction with plenty of parodies and commentary on the price of fame.
Official description from VALIANT:
‘AMERICAN WASTELAND’ begins here! His whole life, Obadiah Archer has been lied to about his true heritage – but when he and his pal Armstrong arrive in L.A. to meet his real parents, they find them in the clutches of the CHURCH OF RETROLOGY!
Fred Van Lente kicks off Archer & Armstrong #20 with a series of celebrity death scenes and if you are younger than 35 you’d be hard pressed to connect all the dates to each celebrity. Lucky for this reviewer that wasn’t a problem and I appreciated the way the scenes were representative rather than exploitative at the high cost of fame and in many cases infamy. (Unfortunately it also glaringly shows my age.) For a series with a base in religion and cults, Van Lente takes on the heart of Hollywood’s most famous religion and dubbing it the “Church of Retrology.”
Archer is now on the search for his real parents and they are at the very center of the church and what he discovers is both strange and twisted. Archer & Armstrong have gone Hollywood and their first stop is the “Famotorium” where Archer is greeted by the dubious and aptly named “Lizard King.” While all this is parody, it is a thinly veiled one, bordering on straight up mockery with Van Lente going for broke. It’s is a very amusing series of events and there is a wealth of material to mine in Hollywood’s mythology.
Both Archer & Armstrong are questioned separately but with a similar thread running through their answers and experiences which becomes a mind trip that is worthy of the Lizard King references. This is quite possibly one of the best scenes ever written in this series. Within the inner sanctum Archer has finally been neutralized which is something no one in the Valiant universe has been capable of doing and comes as a huge shock to both Archer and readers alike. It is a well thought out and timely event at this point with the wackiness of Hollywood as the ultimate foil to Archer’s powers. The humor is off the chart and is a welcome return after the slightly more modest tone in the last crossover with Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps. This is a perfect blend of the outrageousness of Hollywood celebrity and the craziness of Archer & Armstrong creating a dense and humorous mix.
Pere Perez has a wealth of material to work with and uses the likenesses of celebrities to great effectiveness. The Lizard King is what we can only imagine Jim Morrison to be had they lived to a ripe old age and the “what if’s” are on full display on the final page where all the celebs, long believed dead, are in full-blown party mode. Visually there is so much going on that part of the fun is digging through the collage of celebrities which Perez illustrates beautifully.
Archer & Armstrong has always been outrageous and fun but with the twist of Hollywood, fame and the mysterious behind-the-scenes look of it’s biggest sci-fi religion does it takes this book to an all new crazy, fun level. It’s no surprise that Van Lente has Archer’s “real” parents somewhere part of a strange Hollywood system and the results are full of humor and mystery. All the things that continue to make Archer & Armstrong a entertaining read. This is a great time for new readers to jump on board and a great turning point for long time readers. The results are sure to be as great as they are outrageous and entertaining. Archer & Armstrong is the title that demonstrates Valiant’s ability to make quality books more comic book fans should be reading.