Peanut butter and chocolate. Spaghetti and meatballs. Salt and Peppa. Sexual encounters with me and a lasting sense of regret. These are all things that go together hand-in-hand, each beautifully enhancing the other by achieving a conjugal oneness of purpose whereby two good things make one thing great. Such is the coming together of Valiant’s two titular odd couples in Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody, both books of which share a certain straight man/whacka-duo dynamic, such that like any of the combos above, their union seemed almost like a foregone conclusion. However, is the appropriately-titled Delinquents the PB&J fusion fans have been salivating after, and greater than the sum of its parts, or are these titles just too close for comfort to peacefully coexist?
The basic premise behind this book sees both tandems fall into the possession of one half of a legendary hobo map, marked with infinitely interesting (and historically accurate) hobo markings, which all lead to what we can assume is either great fortune or an object of incredible power, given the people who are after it and what they are willing to do to get it (i.e., the bad guys - a cultish agricultural company that has hired Quantum and Woody to find the other half of the map, which is of course in the hands of A&A). Wow. That was a really long sentence.
Asmus does a great job of succinctly running down the pasts and personalities of this culture-clash cast of characters, allowing each pair this issue to stand on their own right before presumably thrusting them together in those to come. As within his Quantum and Woody run, he can be fairly heavy on the exposition, but as always proves to be a master of comedic timing and is once again hilarious here.
If you’re new to Asmus’ stuff, you’ll notice how he (as well as artist Kano) likes to play in his books, in one panel breaking the fourth wall with a block of qualifying red text. I love these sly meta-references, though I’m not sure why he named his main antagonist after real-life serial killer Gerald Stano. Coincidence perhaps? What is no coincidence is how well Asmus’ humor translates to Archer and Armstrong and how he once again gives such a great voice to all of the characters, even those not essential to the plot; a great signature of his style in my view.
Similarly, Kano’s art is a goddamn deluge, but that’s not to say it isn’t a delightful flood. Rare is the page that has five panels or less, with the artist actively inundating you with a smaller but astonishingly no-less-detailed barrage. And yet, there is subtle storytelling at play here, too, especially within those two pages that show the silent but telling journey the map took through history. That was incredible.
There was only one time his subtlety was lost on me here, and that’s when the henchman character of Mr. Meat seemingly transforms into someone else off-panel, but maybe I’m just missing something. It also sometimes feels that he splits panels here for the sake of it, even when he doesn’t really need to; however, the end effect is a great collection of liner moments that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle of more prosaic layouts. Kano shows us half-beats along with full ones, giving us a perhaps more claustrophobic visual narrative, but one that feels all the more fleshed-out for it.
It’s probably not a surprise to anyone who has ever read my reviews for Quantum and Woody, where this creative team has joined up before, but I loved this book. It is yet another in a long, long line of stellar achievements from Valiant.
Writer: James Asmus & Fred Van Lente Artist: Kano Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/23/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital