16th Feb2018

‘Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1′ Review (Valiant)

by Dan Clark

Written by Fred Van Lente | Art by Cafu | Published by Valiant Comics

armstrong-spirits-1-cover

Valiant does a lot of things right as a comic company. On the top of that ever-growing list is finding ways give new readers a starting point to get into their classic characters without retconning everything that came before. Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 is a fun one shot that can work for new time readers but probably works best for those who have a deeper understanding of the Valiant universe. When you have a character like Armstrong that is an immortal it opens the doors for a lot of different stories and here the story gets biblical.

As a character, Armstrong is that friend many of us have that tends to leave a path of destruction in his wake. Despite that, you cannot help but cheer for the guy due to his big heart and massive huggability. Armstrong’s past does catch up with him as this story showcases. It’s a special day as the world’s most complex wine cellar is about to open. This cellar can only be open once a year by Armstrong’s brother Ivar and inside is an endless amount of alcoholic beverages for each year Armstrong has been alive. When you consider he has been around longer than Noah it makes you realize how much booze that is.

In a way this operates like a classic annual where members of the universe converge for this one story. Archer, Ivar the Timewalker, Faith, Quantum and Woody and other notable Valiant characters are all apart of this tale. One negative is outside of Ivar none of the character make much more than a cameo appearance. If you go into this really looking forward to some unique banter between these characters you do not really get it.

Ultimately though this is Armstrong’s story or as some call him Arm the Strong. It is split up between to main pieces as we see the present day as well as a flashback with Armstrong interacting with Noah after the great flood. Opening your superhero comic with images of Noah and excerpts of actual scripture is a bold move. Hold off your sacrilegious protest as is does have a story purpose outside of simple shock value. As someone who spent many Sunday mornings in Sunday school, I did appreciate the use of the more questionable parts of Noah’s personality.

One-shots succeed and fail with their ability to have a complete arc that is fulfilling with no major loose ends. How we deal with the loss of loved ones is a major theme throughout. Never does the story become sanctimonious or press too hard on those moments as they just add that right pinch of drama in an otherwise comedic story. There are some major comedic bits that do not work nearly as well. An encounter with a connection to Armstrong’s past has an outcome that felt somewhat cheap. Seeing a person so drastically change his opinion of Armstrong based on so little information came off as a long way to go for a quick gag.

Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 may be a one-shot but I could see this being a type of story they return to each year. One where they can find new ways to connect to Armstrong’s lengthy past to further his future development. Despite some minor quibbles, it was an enjoyable tale that wets the appetite for future Archer and Armstrong stories.

***½  3.5/5

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