Category Archives: 90s Comics

Opposites Attract: Archer & Armstrong (Presented by SBTU)

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  It’s me, Dean Compton, back again once more!  I know it’s been some time since I dropped by here, and believe-you-me, I have missed this place and all of you!  Life comes at you fast, and even The Flash himself wouldn’t hit as fast as the way life has hit me over the last year.  I’m about to embark upon my second move in 14 months, which will result in the 4th state I have lived in in that same time!  It’s enough to make my memories seem like they stretch back to the beginning of time, Mr. Fantastic style!

Of course, my memories don’t really do that.  I am blessed to have a good memory (although all that results is in me recalling every time someone was mean to me — I’m looking at you, Mrs. Jeffries, my fourth grade teacher!) ,but I can only remember what I have learned in my decidedly short lifetime.  For someone who is eternal, though, having an even average memory means recalling details of thousands of years ago from great historical moments to what it was like to shit next to Woolly Mammoths.

Which brings us to the Super Blog Team Up theme this go-round: Immortal.  Living forever or being eternal has its ups and downs, and between all the topics you’re gonna see around SBTU, we’re gonna hit every one of those highs and lows harder than Armstrong hits the bottle!   90’s comics were chock full of Immortals, but the Valiant Universe’s triad of immortal brothers has always appealed greatly to me.  Gilad the Eternal Warrior, Ivar the Timewalker, and Aram…the drunk?  They are brothers who are bonded by somehow being immortal.  They can be killed, but it would take utter vaporization to keep them from being healed from most other wounds.

To be fair, Aram (whose name has evolved into Armstrong as time goes on) is much more than a drunk, although that is the image he puts forth most prominently.  Having seen so many deaths and so much violence, he has seemingly retreated into debauchery.  I mean, why not?  The path of excess will lead to the palace of wisdom, or so I have been told. And when you this hard to kill, there’s lots of paths that lead to lots of excess that will surely end up in lots of wisdom, correct?  Aram seems to think so.

Archer, on the other hand, isn’t immortal, isn’t nearly invulnerable, and isn’t a drunk.  His parents were evangelists who engaged in awful torture and molestation of the younger members of their congregation, all without Archer’s knowledge.  Archer, you see, believes wholeheartedly in his parents, their beliefs, Jesus, and himself.  This belief enables him to sometimes become otherworldly in his ability to accomplish physical feats that would be impossible.  After he catches his parents in their gruesome rituals, they attempt to kill him via burning the house down with him in it.  He heads for the light, only to realize that someone needs to deal with the evil that is his parents.  Archer heads back for reality.

Archer & Armstrong #000_Archer & Armstrong 000-07
Well this is just fucking awful

His powers kick in, and he gets away, only to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation. With his parents lingering and waiting to kill him, he escapes from the hospital and somehow makes his way to a monastery in Asia, where he masters martial arts, marksmanship, and everything about their philosophy except for letting go of the pursuit of vengeance.  To be fair, if my parents tried to kill me, I’d be all about some fucking Ghost Rider style vengeance too (probably with less flaming skulls, though).  Archer leaves the monastery to get his vengeance, only to learn that his parents were arrested about two weeks after he ran away.

I know what you’re thinking: these two fucking belong together.  Lucky you, buddy, because Valiant is giving you just that with Archer and Armstrong!

Archer & Armstrong #000_Archer & Armstrong 000-00fc
You really can’t go wrong with Barry Windsor-Smith.  This is one of my favorite covers of his.  Also, I just now noticed Archer is barefoot.  Take my badge; I’m off the force.

Created by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and Barry Windsor-Smith, you’d be hard pressed to find a funnier or more fun buddy comic than Archer & Armstrong.  The book is sort of the superhero version of the relationship between Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat from the “Opposites Attract” video.  If you have not seen this video, goddamn, man, what are you waiting for?  If you have and you are not smiling at the thought of it, you are a Terminator.

The song highlights a relationship between two people who have little in common.  These differences start with the fact that one is a hot choreographer turned pop star and one is a cartoon cat and eventually end up much more mundane, like who makes the bed and who messes up the sheets.  Archer and Armstrong, believe or not, have a similar dichotomy.  Archer, the ultimate pious man who eschews vices, and Armstrong, who will seemingly live forever and never met a vice he didn’t enjoy twice.

Like many odd couples, these two meet on accident, with both of them living up to their ideals.

they ,eet
And rest assured, Armstrong is more than willing to take his last five.  And yours.  Give it to him already, will ya?

Armstrong sees this act of magnanimity as something to celebrate, and Archer has nothing better to do with his purpose gone.  Armstrong promises to hear about Archer’s troubles, but instead does nothing but drink and tell what Archer perceives to be tall tales.  You’d be hard-pressed to blame him for not believing Armstrong about the stories he tells.  He often talks of long dead historical luminaries like Hannibal, and he looks like a cabbie from a 1970’s exploitation film.  The only thing that differentiates him from other tellers of tall tales is that his are mostly true.

There’s no way for Archer to know this, though, so he departs from Armstrong, but not before Armstrong convinces him to look for a job as a bar bouncer.  Archer’s naïveté disqualifies him from this job, despite his physical ability to perform it.  His performance does attract a strange man named Mahmud, who seems to know a lot about Archer.  He convinces Archer that there is a great evil that needs to be taken care of.  If you guessed that said evil is Armstrong, then you have read a comic book before.  Congratulations!  They’re fun.

Over time a group of people have formed The Sect, a cabal dedicated to destroying Armstrong.  Over the many years he has been alive, people of varying religious faith have determined that Armstrong is Satan, or at least a Satan.  This makes sense. How many times over the years has this large cabbie dude bumbled into a village/town/city, gotten mega drunk, seduced some ladies, beat up a bunch of dudes, and then destroyed heavy property with the strength of a rhino? So, yeah, I bet some people have thought he was the devil, or at least close.

The Sect only manages to get Archer on their side for a bit, until Armstrong points out that he is only trying to get away, compared to The Sect, who is trying to kill him and  don’t care who gets caught up in the collateral damage.  Finally, our heroes are together and ready to make a stand!

Archer & Armstrong #000_Archer & Armstrong 000-25
The shirtless cape is a bold fashion choice, but I have to say Archer is making it work for him.

The Sect has to wait, though, since at this very moment, Armstrong’s brother arrives on the scene, using Solar’s hand to find Armstrong to help battle the MotherGod during the events of Unity! (Which I still consider to be the best superhero crossover of all time.  It’s mindblowingly amazing and seamless, even if you can’t read every part.)

 

Archer & Armstrong #001_Archer & Armstrong 001-01
As someone who has a brother, I can attest that whether in a car or with a veritable God’s hand, they will only ever show up unexpectedly at awkward times like this.

This is truly the moment where the two are cemented together as partners.  Being whisked off on an adventure that they really didn’t choose sets the template for the series.  Archer & Armstrong  is just one long buddy road trip story, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I reckon this is also the moment that they become partners because Archer literally fucking says so.

pardners
Archer enlisting Armstrong in causes of moral righteousness also sets a template for the series.

I’m not going to tell you everything that happens to them during Unity or beyond, but I do want to take a moment to show the encounter between Turok and these two.  After A&A botch an assassination attempt on Mothergod in the land of Unity, the would-be God sends Turok after our diametrically opposed duo.  Just to see how opposed they are, look at how they differently they handle captivity:

opposed philsophies
The true odd couple of superheroics.

It’s funny to think about, but Turok is almost certainly the most well known Valiant/Gold Key character in mainstream circles, due to his exploits on the N64 after his well-received game came out.  I have lost count of the number of times I have manipulated a conversation into the realm of Valiant Comics (yes, this is something I do; don’t act like you don’t too), and the only character non-comics fans know is Turok.  Perhaps that will change with the impending Bloodshot movie and all; only time will tell.

Before his N64 conquering days, though, Turok was a badass in the Valiant Universe.  Everything he did just seemed and looked cool. and when he decides to take up arms in the service of the Mothergod with his cool fucking bow against Archer and Armstrong, it was must see.  Could this Native American with somewhat advanced technology take out the Immortal and Quasi-Invulnerable Armstrong?  Could he deal with the martial arts prowess of Archer?

Um, yeah, more or less.

turok vs armstrong
Jesus, even armored and immortal that has to hurt. It reminds me of the heartburn I had last night after eating WaWa meatballs, which, coincidentally, were also served to me via flaming arrow.

After showing our own dysfunctional duo that he could honestly drop them just about anytime, Turok asks Archer why he shouldn’t.

turok conscience
The Fat One is my new nickname for Armstrong forever.

Archer is able to convince the world’s greatest dinosaur hunter that he and his rotund and immortal pal aren’t the enemies here by appealing to Turok’s innate and devout sense of right and wrong.  Archer always tries to appeal to the better nature of humanity.   Sometimes, that costs him, but I find it inspiring that no matter how many times he is betrayed or how many times he is let down, Archer refuses to stop believing that there’s a better part of all of us.  He insists to Turok that one day, a good man like Turok will realize MotherGod is evil. If Turok has to kill them this day, go ahead, but Archer implores Turok to take up arms against MotherGod on the day he inevitably figures out MotherGod is an evil deity.

In this case, it works out for Archer, as Turok has had a sense of Archer’s righteousness from the start due to his own connection to the Earth.  He spares the  duo and goes off to do his own soul-searching, but he realizes MotherGod ain’t the way.

Archer & Armstrong #002_Archer & Armstrong 002-21
Armstrong always looks on the bright side of things.

That’s the end of the first three issues of Archer and Armstrong.  There’s so much more ahead, but that’s for another day.  I can’t get enough of the antics between these two.  There’s nothing like the polar opposites in your group of pals that seemingly never stop arguing but also never stop getting along.  Here we get to see all of that, plus they are involves in the high stakes world of the Valiant Universe.  For superhero buddy comics, it just doesn’t get any better.

Make sure and check out the rest of the SBTU gang at the links below, and hopefully, we’ll see you around here again really soon!

 

Chris Is On Infinite Earths: Podcast Episode 26 – Resurrection Man 1997 & 2011

Black, White and Bronze: What Price Immortality? A Review of Red Nails

DC In the 80s: Young Animals Bug

Between The Pages Blog: Big Finish: Doctor Who’s Finest Regeneration

Comics Comics Comics Blog: Dr. Fate

The Superhero Satellite: Mephistos Whisper: The Immortality Of Peter and Mary Jane (One More Day)

Comic Reviews By Walt: TMNT and Highlander

 

 

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Unspoken Issues #0 – Our Zero Issue

 

It has been in the works for a little while now and “Unspoken Issues” has finally arrived! 

Chris Armstrong and Jesse Starcher bring you their newest bit of podcast content for The Unspoken Decade.   Here you will get the “zero issue” explaining who these two are, what the plans for the podcast will be, and how YOU can help determine what may be covered on following episodes.

Click below to enjoy Unspoken Issues #0!

The Case of the Venomous Offspring (Part 2)

RCO001_w_1463374424-1-1-1-1Greetings and salutations, you sexy and clever fans of The Unspoken Decade! What’s that? Why am I kissing your butts? Me?! Never! Can’t a narrator praise his amazing readers? Good. I’m glad we cleared that up. (By the way, have you all been working out? It shows!)

Now that everyone is feeling good about themselves, let’s begin my review of the second half of the “Venom: Lethal Protector” storyline, shall we?

When we last left our hero, he had been captured by an organization called the Life Foundation, and the villains were only interested in his symbiote’s offspring! Nope, things don’t look good for ol’ Venom! As we begin this issue, things haven’t gotten any better. Brock and his symbiotic “other” continue to float in an energy orb of comprised of pure sound. Venom thrashes and roars in defiance as Carlton Drake calmly looks on. Venom threatens to “suck his lungs out through his nose!” (Now that’s thought provoking. Can this be done? Does one need symbiotically enhanced lungs or simply Justin Beiber-level of ability to suck? Hmm….)

RCO004_w_1463374573-1-1Drake merely brushes the threat away and begins speaking of his master plan. Simply put? He wants Venom’s offspring to enhance bodyguards for the wealthy that have already purchased condos from him. (Devious, eh? He’s essentially like if Dr. Doom had an evil love child with the Monopoly Guy!) Just then, the fifth and final symbiote is born and quickly contained. Venom continues to thrash in outrage!

Meanwhile, Spidey is seen doing what Spidey does best – fighting crime. As a group of young hoods race away from the convenience store they have just robbed, they take their collective gaze off of the road ahead just long enough for the Amazing Spider-Man to drop down onto their hood! He webs their windshield and leaps to safety. The escape car, now driving blind, hits a nearby tree! Later, as the local police thank the wall-crawler, he asks for change to make a call.  (For you youngins, the change is for an ancient device that we neanderthals called a phone booth. Nope. No cell phone for selfies or texting! Truly frightening, huh?)

RCO006_1463374573-1He notifies his wife that, though Venom has recently dropped off of the grid, crimes are being committed in true symbiote fashion all around the city. His stay in San Francisco may just be longer than expected. Back in the desert compound of the Life Foundation, Venom continues to attempt an escape. Sadly, the force of the Sonics is just too strong for the symbiote. But for the human within….? The thought coming to the venomous duo, Venom grins his many-fanged smile.

RCO011_1463374573-1

Back to ol’ web-head. Following a few leads he finds himself in a mall. A young woman is thrown from above, but Spidey gets there just in time to catch the girl, saving her from certain death. He then follows the gaze of the onlookers and sees the source of their fear….a female symbiote?! Rather than acting afraid of the sudden appearance of a seasoned superhero, she seems positively pleased! (You know, there’s just something exciting about a woman who could either kiss you or bite your face off on a whim. Mmmm! Sexy!)

RCO017_1463374573-1Back to Venom. While the villain has his back turned, speaking further of his sinister plans, Venom suddenly reaches through the orb with his human arm and seizes a guard! He then throws the minion into the control center for his prison, effectively shutting it down! Now free, the Lethal Protector begins tearing his way through the security personnel as if they’re no more than tissue paper! As he reaches for Drake, however, he is suddenly shot in the back by a sonic rifle! Brock and the symbiote drop unconscious. (Nekkid again, it should be noted. Someone, anyone, get this man some tighty whiteys!)

We then return to the mall, where Spider-Man battles the female symbiote with all that he has! As the fight rages on, he notices that she is extremely fast and strong but couldn’t be any more of a rookie in combat. Using this to his advantage, he lures her away from the civilians, pretending to surrender, and then springs into a fierce attack while she’s unprepared! Now down, she calls for an extraction. She tosses another would-be victim toward a wall. Spidey quickly cushions the man with his own body. Returning his gaze to the symbiote, he sees that she is gone. A hovercraft begins to lift off, but before it can get too far, the wall-crawler fires a web onto it! He is then pulled with the vehicle towards its destination. (Has anyone else noticed how this has become less of a Venom miniseries and more yet another excuse to showcase Marvel’s “big gun,” AKA Spider-Man? Like the dude doesn’t have enough comics in the 90’s! Let the V-Man have his moment in the sun! Geez! Rant over.)

Meanwhile, in a dark and hidden room, the torture of a homeless man finally comes to an end. Treece grows impatient. He wants the homeless exterminated. That way, he can claim the gold he’s discovered beneath the park! If he could just locate their hidden lair….

RCO023_1463374573-1When the craft reaches the Life Foundation compound, Spidey enters and sneaks along the ceilings, unseen until that’s no longer an option. He battles armored goons left and right, slowly advancing upon the room where Venom is held captive. Within, Drake has decided that Eddie Brock has become more trouble that he’s worth! Using his sophisticated machines, he actually painfully strips the Venom symbiote from Eddie Brock! (Way to go, web-head! Just had to stick your nose where it didn’t belong! Now there is no Venom to finish this storyline! Well, I guess I could finish this with some thoughts on Marvel’s Powdered Toast Man Special #1. What’s that? Oh. The comic’s not over yet. Well, color me embarrassed. Please. Do continue.)

Moments later, Spider-Man breaks into room only to find a taunting Carlton Drake on a computer screen, and what appears to be the fresh corpse of one Eddie Brock lying on the floor!

RCO005_1463374619-1On to the next exciting issue! Spidey, still fighting guards, replies that Venom is a lot harder to kill than he thinks. Just then, one of the lab techs alerts Drake that they have found a faint pulse! Eddie Brock lives! Disgusted with this turn of events, he switches off the monitor and orders the tech to perform an autopsy anyway! As for Spider-Man? Let him meet “the children!” The five symbiotes enter the room! (Man! Spidey looks like he’s kinda screwed, eh Unspoken fans? I mean, he usually has trouble with just one symbiote! Is the wall-crawler’s number finally up? Will Marvel lose its biggest cash cow without an “X” in the title? Stay tuned….)

RCO008_1463374619-1Meanwhile, Treece has had enough of his “homeless problem” and pulls the tarp from the back of a large truck, revealing crates of explosives! He means to bury those poor people alive! Seeing this, spies for the underground city return to their home with the alarming news!

Back in the desert compound, just as the Life Foundation lab techs are about to begin their autopsy, Brock suddenly leaps to life and attacks! A guard enters the room and fires a sonic blaster at our hero, but the joke’s on him. Without his “other,” Brock no longer fears loud noise! While it is assumed that these men are being beaten to death, Spidey continues his battle in a nearby room with the five symbiotes!

RCO011_1463374619-1Two of the aliens trap his arms in tendrils as a third charges with sharpened fists! When the symbiote gets close Spider-Man pulls all three together with his enhanced strength! Another then attacks with barbed hands and, strangely enough, excretes a strange acid from them! (Does anyone else remember this “acid thing”? I mean, I admittedly haven’t read this in years, but isn’t that a strange ability for a symbiote to possess? I don’t remember Marvel bringing this up ever again either. Hmmm. The House of Ideas, forget something? Impossible! Write in if I’m wrong here.) Spidey ducks and webs up their faces. Just then, Brock enters the room! He tries to call his symbiotic children to him in peace. They answer by attacking him in unison, forcing the heroic duo to momentarily retreat!

Webbing the door behind them, Brock leads Spidey to the dissection room, and they each arm themselves with the fallen guards’ sonic rifles. Both fire as the five symbiotes break through! Four are incapacitated but the fifth ducks the attack and lunges forward with bladed arms! Webbing the symbiote, both heroes retreat to yet another room. Once inside, Brock is relieved to see his “other” being held in stasis! Quickly breaking the alien free, the two become one once more, and Venom is reborn! (That’s right kiddies, daddy’s back and it’s time to line up for your spankings!)

RCO017_1463374619-1While Venom tangles with the other symbiote, he orders Spider-Man to look to the keyboards of the many computers for help of any kind! Accidentally, he discovers a ray that, once it hits the alien’s skin, ages it to death! Venom tells Spidey to hit them all with it as the others burst in! Spider-Man, not wanting to risk the lives of the humans within, refuses! (What a weenie! I’m sorry, but thats why I root for the anti-hero! I mean, I get the whole moral compass thing, but these guys had no qualms about making Spidey-kabobs just minutes earlier! Sheesh!)

Wasting little time, Venom sends a tendril snaking behind Spider-Man’s back. His spider-sense, of course, not sensing it, is caught by surprise when Venom chokes him out! At that very moment,  the five symbiotes break in! Using the ray at full blast, Venom ages the symbiote halves of the five humans to alien dust! The humans within survive, though unconscious. Spider-Man awakens in just enough time for both heroes to escape the Life Foundation compound before it explodes! Losing track of Venom, Spidey begins his search anew. Venom, on the other hand, heads back to San Francisco. He has unfinished business there!

RCO003_w_1463374663-1At the home of Roland Treece, the chief of security is in a state of shock! It seems that all security measures for the estate have been bypassed and all guards lie beaten and unconscious! Who could have done this? What happened? That’s when he turns and the answer to his question becomes clear…..Venom happened! To his credit, the man tries his best to protect the property, even from the likes of the Lethal Protector! But, in the end, he talks. (Finally, the secret of why there’s gold in them thar hills will be explained! Umm. At this point, do we even really care? Don’t we, the readers, just want to see justice served to the bad guy? Agreed. Moving on.)

RCO012_1463374663-1Learning that the homeless are in danger from the explosives in the park, an outraged Venom knocks out the security chief and heads toward the park. Spider-Man, however, is already there. When Venom arrives, he is met by two red-booted feet in the gut from our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, quickly followed by a quick punch to the jaw! Venom retaliates by entangling the hero in symbiotic goo! As the arachnid hero attempts to free himself, Venom states that there is no time to fight. Innocent people are in danger. He finishes by asking the hero for help. Surprised by all of this, Spidey agrees. (Wow! Venom was the voice of reason in this scene! Is the world nearing its end? Quick, someone check on Betty White! Everyone knows she’ll outlive the planet itself!)

RCO013_1463374663-1Now united, the heroes quickly leap into action! Never losing a step, Treece sends the digger armored suits to stop the heroes from reaching the bombs! Spidey lets loose a webline at one as it fires a heat ray and swings it towards another, effectively using both robotic armored suits to take each other out! Not to be outdone, Venom pushes a suit’s drill arm down, towards its own armored knee! Treece then does what anyone in his situation would do – runs away!  (Yep. Things are coming crashing down on the villain, aren’t they? He’d have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling heroes and their symbiote!)

Spider-Man continues battling the diggers while Venom races after Treece. The only problem is that some fuel has ignited due to the crashing of metal on metal. Fire. One of the two main weaknesses of the symbiote race! Inside a nearby trailer, Treece continues to begin the process of blowing the bombs! If he goes down, he isn’t going alone, it seems. Venom, risking the very life of his symbiotic “other” and fighting against unimaginable pain, reaches through the flames and pulls Treece out, ending the threat!

RCO020_1463374663-1Spider-Man runs up to check on his once-enemy. Venom is already healing itself. Sirens sound in the distance. Spidey turns momentarily. When he returns his gaze, Venom is gone. (Batman, eat your heart out!) Later, Eddie Brock is once again called upon by the council of the underground city. Having witnessed how he saved them, he is offered sanctuary. He accepts. Not only will he live as one of them, he will be their protector – a lethal protector!

End.

RCO023_1463374663-1(This article is dedicated to my lovely niece, Angel Marie Miller. You’ve always had my back throughout your young life. Always defending your uncle no matter what. Words cannot express just how much you mean to me. I love you.)