This month’s installment of Valiant’s newest mini-series pulls a swerve on the audience on what the series is about after all. I shouldn’t expect any less from a guy like Ales Kot, and he does manage to keep the whole thing interesting. At the end of the last issue, X-O Manowar was taken out of play because he’d been exposed to the virus and had to be quarantined. At the beginning of this issue, Archer is in a kiddie pool with no pants on yelling about how he refuses to be disrespected. The issue flashes back to the beginning of Archer’s Terrible-Horrible-No-Good-Very-Bad Day, and we follow him through Brooklyn as he chases the woman carrying the virus and her sassy driver. When he finally catches up to them, he’s faced with a crisis of conscience that he may not be able to work through before he’s taken off the board.
Adam Gorham’s art on this series continues to be incredible. After having just read an issue with a lot of X-O Manowar/armored suit shenanigans, this issue leans a lot more heavily on physical comedy with Archer being... well, Archer, and he makes the transition seamlessly. Whether it’s high speed train chases, car chases, men in vans taking hostages, or a young idiot ruining a child’s birthday party, it all gets pulled off beautifully. Whatever else you think about this mini, you have to admit that Valiant definitely found the right artist for the job.
Kot’s script is about what I would expect from the guy, having only really read his indie stuff (the only thing I was interested in about Secret Avengers was MODOK, and I still didn’t pick it up). But the guy seems interested in dissecting not necessarily what comic books do, but the way that they do them. He knows that you can make a four-issue mini-series that’s plot-heavy and character light, and the third issue will have a car chase, and so on--he’s creating a mini that’s remarkably plot-light, and more interested in doing deep-dives into what four different characters would be like during these events than focusing on a grand villain with the heroes off to the side.
This issue reveals a little bit more of what may be the overarching plot (we’re approaching the territory where I get to use the word “mastermind,” so get psyched), without giving it all away. My real problem this month is that, while I’ve generally enjoyed X-O and Archer’s sides of the virus chase, they’ve both felt very same-y to me. There’s a lot of chases, there’s a lot of banter with Neville, there’s a lot of “the people with the virus are not what they seem.” It’s a book that I enjoy while I’m in the moment reading it, but when I’m done, I don’t have a lot to say about it in specifics. I dig what these two guys are doing, and I’m glad Valiant is letting them use their relatively new soil to plant this weird experiment, but the last two issues are really going to have to wow me to make this the game changer they want it to be.