Archer's adopted sister, Mary-Maria, has come a long way since the beginning of the series. She's been a love interest for Archer and now, she is the head of the Sister's of Perpetual Darkness. How did she become adopted by Archer's parents though?
All-in-all, this is a great time to reintroduce yourself to the series, if you happened to fall off a bit, like I did. Sure, where Mary-Maria is at now ties into what happened after Civil Sect War, but it makes for a good jumping on point for those familiar with the series already.
The story itself is pretty awesome. It's more emotional and dramatic than the vast majority of things we've seen come out of Valiant, since the reboot, but that was the great thing about this particular issue. Karl Bollers does a really great job with this story and making it feel like it fits in the series. Sure, it got a tad wordy in a couple of scenes, but overall, Bollers kills it when it comes to making this fit into the world, while never having written anything within the series.
The story develops Mary-Maria a whole lot more and does so in an entertaining way. Although it wasn't a burning question for me to find out why Mary-Maria's parents gave her up, it was a pleasant experience to read. Well, the story isn't that pleasant, but you understand what I mean. Although, at its core, this issue really is just filler until the 25th issue, at no point does it feel like it. The reader is presented a full-fledged story that adds to the series as a whole and not just something readers will forget about two months down the road.
It was great to see artist Clayton Henry return to this series, since he's the fella who started it. Just as important is the color work from David Baron who does a stellar job with his colors and uses a different palate to separate the present from the past. Present day looks completely normal, as you'd expect, but he dulls the colors down in the past, making everything look faded, which is a great way to present the scenes.
A couple of times, the jumping back and forth between the present and past was jarring. At the same time, there were some minor problems in pacing which led to a small amount of confusion while reading, but overall, the issue really works well in this format.
There will be disappointment for A&A fans as they see no Archer or Armstrong in this entire issue.
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #24 provides a solid story, even in the absence of its two titular characters. While this issue is, in a sense, filler until issue #25, it's a memorable story that adds a lot to the Valiant Universe. In the past, I've said (with ARMOR HUNTERS) that "this is how events are done." I now say "this is how filler issues are done." Don't take "filler" as a negative thing though because this raises the bar to unheard of heights when it comes to books getting from story 1 to story 2. Hopefully, we'll see more of Bollers in the future because he easily filled Van Lente's shoes. I highly recommend this issue.