Valiant Entertainment 2017
Written by Eliot Rahal
Illustrated by Francis Portela
Coloured by Andrew Dalhouse
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Archer & Armstrong: Enemies of the State! In the Soviet-controlled world of the Stalinverse, there is a place where liberty is sentenced to die…and it’s Gulag 396. A maximum-security prison where the only escape is through death, the gulag is the final stop for all enemies and detractors of the world’s oppressive authority. But when public enemy Obadiah Archer is admitted as the latest inmate, could his gospel of goodwill and optimism be the spark that ignites a new faith in the prison’s population…including the immortal undesirable known as Aram Addi-Padda?
Each and every one shot that has come out of this Divinity III storyline has made me want to see more of the characters in these situations. It’s been a long time since an event series has been so well that in all reality it could support it’s own line of books that would rival the originals. Aside from the fact that this is a completely different take on the world and how we see it the fact that we get an Archer & Armstrong at all is kind of beyond awesome. Even better is how Eliot has structured this story.
From the beginning we’re seeing everything from Obediah’s perspective which is kind of natural. To see what he goes through in this reality is pretty amazing stuff and that his religion and that of his father is what keeps him going and makes him the man that we see here well I have whole new respect for that. This is what happens when belief isn’t tainted by some narcissistic tendencies or a plot to rule the world and instead shows how it can be inspiring. So very good job on Eliot for that portrayal here it really comes across incredibly well.
Also I do like the way that Obediah is the catalyst for Armstrong to get out of his funk and start moving on with his life. I mean the man’s immortal right and he’s seen empires rise and fall and taken sides in many of them. So the real question is why has he given up now? Does he need Archer to make him complete again, to feel alive and that he has a purpose in this world? If so then that too comes across nicely because we’ve never seen just how important the two are to each other than right here in this one-shot story.
Francis is an amazing artist and his work here continues to just impress the heck out of me. His attention to detail, use of page layouts through angles, perspective and backgrounds are stunning to see. The transformation in Obedia from child to man is marvelous! What this man can do with his work just makes reading that much more fun and with Andrew colouring it it’s totally just a wow factor!
If that weren’t enough we get a bonus story here too! The Origin of the Pioneer is well suited for this reality but the question is will we see here again when the world goes back to normal? I love Juan Jose Ryp and his artwork and seeing that cathedral coming out of the island is awe inspiring to say the least. I love that he and Matt can do these little stories together that have that pop and zing to them.
Valiant is one of my favourite universes to play in because of storytelling like this.