Friday, December 14, 2012

Pull List Review: Archer & Armstrong #5

Something just isn't clicking for me with this book. I don't feel invested in its story or characters yet, and seeing as this issue is the beginning of a new arc, that's problematic. I don't dislike Archer and Armstrong, but neither of them has done anything to properly win me over, either. They're a bit too flat, not one-note but maybe only four-note characters, making the same points over and over with little progress or change. When Archer seemingly runs away early in his and Armstrong's battle with Gilad, we know he's going to come back and help his friend, because the kid is easy to predict. And later, he points out his ally's own predictability, saying that if Archer were to admit to being a virgin then Armstrong would try to get him laid. There just aren't a lot of surprises in this issue; everything goes as expected, right down to the "cliffhanger" on the final page.
     Emanuela Lupacchino's pencils are fine enough, with my only real complaint being that Archer's face doesn't always look the same. Not his expressions (which actually do all sort of look the same) but the actual shape of his head. Overall, though, everything looks good, if not particularly interesting. The fight scenes are easy to follow, but they lack a bit of fluidity, which makes them feel less real and harder to get excited by. The most notable exception is the large panel of Gilad driving a bus toward Armstrong riding in a rickshaw, with the rickshaw driver screaming for his life. That single image has all the liveliness and movement I want out of combat scenes, which is far less present in the rest of the book. Other than maybe the two-page splash of Gilad diving into an army of enemies, there's nothing visually memorable in this issue.
     The writing from Fred Van Lente is, unfortunately, even less sturdy. The sequence from 210 BC is alright but, like the titular heroes, there's nothing inherently interesting about it and it isn't developed enough to get me to care. And it's weakened later in the issue when we flash back to it again for two panels so that Gilad can tell Armstrong the end to a story he already knows and we as readers don't need to hear. That's actually my largest complaint with Archer & Armstrong #5: Gilad won't shut up. He has so many long-winded, needlessly expository lines. It makes sense inasmuch as he is more of a plot point than a fully-realized character right now, but I don't want talking plot points. I want interesting villains who give me a reason to pay attention to them.
     I admit, some of my disinterest comes from a total lack of understanding about what the Geomancer is and why he/she matters. I'm certain it was explained to me last time (in the rushed finale of the opening arc), and we see in this issue that being Geomancer involves having Earth communication and/or manipulation powers, but the details as to why keeping this person safe is so significant have escaped me. Am I to blame for my forgetfulness, or is it Van Lente's responsibility to explain himself in such a way that the important information sticks? Both, I think. But either way, it took away from my enjoyment of this latest issue.
     I just don't care if any of these characters, good or evil, live or die. And the book isn't having as much fun here as it did in the earlier chapters. Armstrong is still a clown but there's no crazy cult or ninja nuns or anything zany like that. Just two pissed off brothers and an overly-serious teen having a brutal street fight. That's fine enough entertainment, but doesn't make for all that compelling a read, and in the end I find myself thinking of this series as expendable. Not bad enough to drop just yet, but not good enough to miss if it somehow went away.

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