Written by: Karl Bollers
Published by: Valiant Comics
The names on the cover are “Archer” and “Armstrong,” but this book is all about the katana-wielding assassin Mary-Maria. Archer’s foster-sister takes center stage in an issue that explores her origin, her angst and her family. Writer Karl Bollers weaves a tale that is neither overly ambitious nor original but it manages to connect on an emotional level. The powerful story is accompanied by Clayton Henry’s solid visuals, which deftly captures emotions while also crafting exciting action sequences.
“Archer & Armstrong #24” is a palate cleanser in a way. We’re one issue removed from the milestone 25th installment of the series, and this stand-alone story fits perfectly into the saga so far without needing to directly carry into immediate follow-ups. It never hurts to make a character more interesting with back-story, at least not in the long run. We’ll undoubtedly look at Mary-Maria differently the next time we see her in the pages of Archer & Armstrong.
Though this comic tends to deal in light-hearted and humorous fare, this issue invades some deeper territory to explore the world of hopeless economic situations and human trafficking. In many countries around the world children merely survive, and those conditions can make for some hard, intense people. Understanding the difficult journey Mary-Maria has had to navigate in her life makes her a much more relatable character.
Henry’s art handles the many different situations that Bollers throws at it. At times the mood is somber and a reflection of the deep personal tragedy playing out before our eyes. Conversely the pace adjusts to capture the frantic chaos of hand-to-hand combat. Henry is a master of clarity; his work is clean and clear and doesn’t lose detail in wasted line work.
The result of Henry’s strong art and Bollers’s emotional script is a solid one-off story. Though we’ll remember Mary-Maria’s character arc in later stories, this issue kind of rides on the coattails of the excitement many of us have toward the 25th issue of Archer & Armstrong. It seems a bit unfair to sum this installment up as a palette cleanser, but one really does get that sense of purpose when reading this book.
This book probably finds itself right in the middle of the pack this week. It is neither amazing nor bad and delivers on enough levels to warrant some praise. Characters are the backbone of every story, so the special focus “Archer & Armstrong #24” pays to a somewhat neglected character is great to see. Having said that, the plot alone doesn’t necessarily depart from the standard fare of the series.
“Archer & Armstrong #24” earns 7.0 / 10