"The Eternal Warrior is Jason Bourne-meets-Highlander...also part Punisher, part Terminator." -- Fred Van Lente, describing a guy you don't want to get on the bad side of.
Welcome to "Valiant Vanguard," a new MTV Geek feature where we "check in" on different Valiant Comics titles and get a sneak peek at exclusive art.
"Archer & Armstrong" #5, hitting stores this Wednesday on the lucky (we hope) date of 12/12/12, ups the stakes for the comic so far -- re-introducing to the new Valiant Universe the Eternal Warrior. There's also a grand-spankin' new Big Bad, further kooky konspiracies, Geomancers, and, of course, more development of the chemistry between the two protagonists. "A&A" writer Fred Van Lente tells all -- and don't forget to check out our EXCLUSIVE preview of the issue plus cover reveals for #8 (like this cheeky variant cover by the talented Tom Fowler):
Archer encounters more Armstrong than he's accustomed to in this variant cover for #8 by Tom Fowler!
MTV Geek: Archer and Armstrong #5 is a family reunion of sorts -- and the long-awaited return of a favorite Valiant character. Tell us something about the entrance of the Eternal Warrior and how he might change the dynamic of the book.
Fred Van Lente: I've been describing Gilad, Armstrong's brother, as "Jason Bourne-meets-Highlander." He's also part Punisher, part Terminator -- he's kind of a relentless force of nature. Literally, because he serves a powerful line of mystics called the Geomancers.
This all dovetails rather nicely into the Secret History and F**knuts Crazy Conspiracies that ARCHER & ARMSTRONG has trafficked in since Day One. They got sucked into Gilad's world in #4 when they -- accidentally! -- killed a Geomancer, thus inspiring Gilad's wrath.
The Eternal Warrior graces this variant cover for issue #6 by Patrick Zircher
Geek: Other than Gilad the Eternal Warrior, will there be anybody else who A&A will be facing off with in this new story arc? A brand-new "Big Bad"?
FVL: Yeah, the Geomancers' arch-nemeses are an ancient conspiracy: "The Null," a nihilistic doomsday cult that believes matter and reality are fundamentally sinful, so they've been seeking to wipe it out, one part at a time.
Some of the worst people in history have worked for The Null, and they are poised to finally achieve their goal of the Earth's annihilation of planet Earth, something you and I should be very, very frightened of.
Geek: Let's talk Geomancers. Who are they, and why are they so important to Gilad?
FVL: That's a question we spend much of this arc answering. The comparison I'd make is to the Jewish Kaballah, in which the Hebrew letters that comprise the Bible aren't just part of a language -- they're literally the building blocks of reality. The Geomancers, in much the same way, speak the "language" of nature -- they can actually persuade matter and energy to do things.
To introduce quantum mechanics into it, the Geomancers speak to the charged side of particles -- Life -- while The Null fights for "no charge," or the Void. So this is a struggle that's been going on for centuries, with Eternal Warrior leading the fight on the Geomancers' side...
...and the Null has their own champion, an Immortal Enemy. And I'd bet dollars to donuts he's showing up in this arc too.
Geek: Might we look forward to seeing a new Geomancer soon, to replace the one who died in issue #4?
FVL: Indeed! You can see her on the cover of issue #6. She is, shall we say, not someone you would expect to be speaking for the Earth. That's all I'll say, and let you find out the rest for yourself...
A brand-new Geomancer graces the cover of "A&A" #6!
Geek: Let's turn to Archer and Armstrong. They started out as opponents, locked in serious battle. By issue #5, how has their relationship developed and changed?
FVL: It's growing and deepening. I definitely didn't want to start them out as insta-buddies -- it took the entire first arc for them to go from antagonists to real partners.
But Archer still has a lot of residual doubts about his true nature left over from Arc 1 -- as should the reader -- and Archer's pull to discover his true origins may provide a serious rift in their relationship moving forward.
Geek: I've noticed nods to several conspiracy theory/"National Treasure" like themes in the series: such as the esoteric imagery of the various parts of the Boon, secret doings in the Vatican, and Nazis infiltrating Tibetan monasteries. Can you speak to those elements in the series, and if we'll see any further nods to conspiracy lore in this new arc?
FVL: GLOBAL WARMING! Conspiracy or hoax? Did you know that the melting glaciers, particularly in places like Greenland, are revealing previously inaccessible caches of incalculably valuable rare-earth metals? The mining companies claim they're (finger quotes) "accidentally" filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gas ... or is it all part of some sinister plot?! Read the truth in Archer & Armstrong!
ALAN TURING! The father of modern computer science and artificial intelligence was found dead in 1954 from cyanide poisoning, supposedly injected into a half-eaten apple, supposedly a reference to his favorite film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The cops called it "suicide," we here at Valiant Comics call it bullhockey! Read the truth in Archer & Armstrong!
"DON'T DISTURB MY CIRCLES!" The mysterious last words of the great engineer and war machine-builder Archimedes! Historians have debated what they meant for centuries -- but we at Valiant have learned they are actually a reference to the rise of the mysterious Null! Read the truth in Archer & Armstrong!
Geek: Can you hint at all about the possible fate of Mary-Maria, Archer's "step-sister"? Might we be seeing her (in some form) any time in the future?
Ohhhh yyyyyyes. Mary-Maria is a major part of this series. Not necessarily of this arc, but that doesn't mean we won't see her in it at all...
Here's an exclusive peek at the cover for #8, by series artist Emanuela Luppachino
Geek: "Archer & Armstrong" seems to strike a perfect balance between the charm of the 1992 series and embracing the current times in which we live. Can you speak to how that process worked -- did you look back at the "old stuff" for some inspiration?
FVL: Thank you! I did. I took the stuff I liked but tweaked them to my own sensibilities. The monks at La-Chen and the ninja nuns were from the original BWS run, of course, but I made them Nazis and women (as opposed to cross-dressing men), respectively. I think the challenge whenever you bring back an old property like this is to keep everything that works and rearrange or update everything you really love and replace the other stuff with that which is your own.
Geek: What's the fan reaction -- both from new readers, and hardcore Valiant Comics aficionados -- to the book?
FVL: It's been terrific. We've been nominated by IGN for 2012's Best New Comics Series. We face pretty stiff competition, and I don't know if it's gauche to link to another comics series from here, but you can vote for us at this link: http://www.ign.com/wikis/best-of-2012/Best_New_Comic_Series
Geek: Any other new projects coming up from you you'd like to mention?
FVL: The one with a hard release date at present is my run on IDW's GI JOE, which I'm super-excited about, and begins with a new #1 in February. I've got a couple things I'm announcing very soon. Everything's coming up Milhouse!
"Archer & Armstrong" #5 hits stores 12/12/12!