After last month's issue feeling a little scattered, it's a relief to see that "Archer & Armstrong" #13 pulls things together and makes everything more cohesive. Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez have a lot to juggle -- the strange nature of the Faraway, the release of Ivar, the mysterious Skymother, the power-lust of Mary-Maria, and the menace of General Redacted -- but thankfully it all clicks well this month.
On the surface, "Archer & Armstrong" #13 is about finishing the fight against General Redacted, a satisfying story in and of its own right. He's a nutcase all the way to the end, and his redaction marks are still making me snicker after four issues worth of his behavior. Van Lente's juggled the silly and the serious with just the right mix. More importantly, though, I like all the little pieces that end up having greater significance. The explanation of how everyone's ending up in the Faraway is well-appreciated, and the bizarre Skymother is finally brought to the forefront and it's a good payoff.
The central cog for "Archer & Armstrong" #13, though, is Archer and Armstrong's relationship. Armstrong's actions with Mary-Maria are simultaneously cringe-worthy and also understandable, and that's a fine line to walk. I think that Van Lente has hit the nail on the head when it comes to explaining why Armstrong would do that; it's an aspect of the relationship between the two characters that makes perfect sense, and now that he's brought it up you can see why it would make Armstrong a little less sympathetic at times. It's a smart and logical extension of Armstrong's character, and I hope that we see a lot of follow-through on this.
Perez finishes up this issue on a strong note. His facial expressions are good -- the looks that everyone gives each other on the final page nail Van Lente's scripted silent moment perfectly -- and that's good for a comic that relies heavily on the relationship between its two leads. He also brings some good visual impact to the, "What do you see?" moment. I love that readers don't need a single word to describe it, with Perez bringing that aspect of the book to light perfectly. He's also quite good when it comes to the aerial dogfight that we get this issue; it's not a skill that's called on often in comics, but these vintage jets whirring through the skies do so with energy and a strong sense of movement, which is a pleasure to view.
"Archer & Armstrong" #13 ends on a strong cliffhanger, thanks to Ivar's addition into the mix. The sky's always been the limit for this series (in either incarnation) and I'm glad to see that Van Lente and Perez aren't afraid to continue in that vein. This is, month in and month out, an entertaining comic. For those not reading, maybe it's time to jump on board yourself, especially with a new storyline kicking off in October.