Story: Ales Kot
Art: Adam Gorham (art), Michael Spicer (colours)
“An alien virus that has ravaged planets throughout the galaxy has arrived on Earth and landed in the black market.”
That’s the basic premise, except you add in that all this was BEFORE it was stolen by a teenaged girl who is on the run (and seems to know more than the people after her, or us…) and somehow connected to a group of other young-folk who are using dead-drops (espionage trick of moving intel, etc – look it up!) to move it around. Except that now the authorities are on to them and under coordination by Neville Alcot, first XO-Manowar (last ish!) was set in pursuit of this brash young woman.
This is what happens next. With Archer. The new hero brought in to chase down said tough-cookie teenager.
The story picks up a pretty break-neck pace right from the start, which is in keeping with the tone set back in the first issue, making this one hell of a chase with effectively two heroes being called in successively on the same chase. This worked well though obviously couldn’t last forever, which is why the end of the issue is a good choice in my view. That’s not a real spoiler, so there.
The biggest strength in the issue was the way it played on Archers character, writer Ales Kot does a really nice job connecting with his personality and the way he talks and behaves throughout the chase. The biggest thing to note in this will be that once we switched from XO in the first issue, to Archer in this one, the chase-game continued, but the comic embraced a more subtle comedic element that is such a good choice. It plays well because Archers original home for us all is his action-comedy comic and that sensibility does a nice job making this feel like more than just a clone of the last issue with hero chasing possible villian – this is even more importan because they are clearly trying to prolong the chase and the saving grace IS in fact the fun story that keeps the reader interested.
I have to say that the basic premise itself is also a big plus because while the calling in of heroes in a Misty Knights “Heroes for Hire” fashion is actually kind of fun to watch (I fervently wish that series had carried on longer…) and the ordering of heroes seems well thought out so far.
[POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!]
The reveal toward the latter half of the issue that seems to indicate that Neville isn’t being entirely honest (or human), that the Vine is involved and that he and this whole operation might not be all we or the heroes imagine, is a nice touch.
The choice made in the issue to at the start jump between flash-back and present for Archer, not bad per-se, but I didn’t care for it because frankly this is a pace-y, speedy comic narrative and to start there with an opening splash image of pants-less Archer in a wading pool and then jumping back… I can see why, but it did bug me. I’d have preferred a less-creative cold setup starting from when he gets the call to the “now” in straight line – sometimes simple is best.
The other thing I wasn’t too taken with was the art. There is nothing inherently negative I can say about the art-team on this series, they do a fine job. But is it a strength? No. Better in this issue than the last and all, but I compare to Valiant comics in general and the comics against which these books compete and by and large this is serviceable art and that’s the best way I can put it. Mostly it’s because I think that the art shows moments where it could be awesome, but for a fast-paced chase sequence-story, the layouts and flow are frankly a little boring.
Who doesn’t love a little conspiracy? Coupled with the not-so-big fight and closing panels of the issue and you have a nice ending that makes you feel like (1) this story has more going for it and is not milking the chase and (2) the game is now truly on and I have to see what happens next!
While the series is not brilliant – yet, it still might surprise – it is quite entertaining and though I was a little underwhelmed at issue #1, this second issue has got my interest level back up. That Archer will be in the next issue and not another new hero and that we finally might get some answers also makes me happy.
I would recommend this as an interesting read amongst the powered/hero comics and a change from the more usual obvious bad-guys and what-have-you. It’s a mini-series, it’s half over and definitely been fun and that alone makes it something worth trying. That it’s written by Kot who is also the man behind the excellent Bucky Barnes ongoing over at Marvel and that Valiant has consistenly made quality comics all adds up to a series you should read just because there’s no down-side. Period.