When we last left Archer and Armstrong, they were getting into a fight at a circus with some crazy scientists. Elsewhere, Mary-Maria (head of the ninja-nun assassins: The Sisters of Perpetual Darkness) was being shunned by the council for her violent actions and questionable leadership skills.
In this issue, Archer and Armstrong befriend the circus “freaks” (as they are called), who all look like Armstrong. They come to know of the scientists’ plan to clone Armstrong and create more immortals. Our duo makes it to the scientists’ lab, where everyone is excited that Armstrong is there to give them more DNA than the one finger they already have. Meanwhile, Mary-Maria and her closest sisters (who would do just about anything to save her) are surrounded by over 1,000 assassins, ready to kill her. She has nowhere to go, but she won’t surrender without a chance to fight for escape, first.
Writer Rafer Roberts creates some incredibly linear, clear, concise, and interesting storyline. He picks up exactly where the last issue left off—in the middle of the same exact fight. The pacing of this issue is steady and comfortable. The language used is simple, and makes for some fantastic character interaction—especially between Archer and Armstrong. These two make some really great protagonists; their different personalities create a nice balance so readers aren’t overwhelmed by one big personality over the other.
The story in this issue is really weird, but super entertaining, too. These circus freaks are way too happy to meet Armstrong, as they were the rejects—the failed experiments—of the cloning process. For some odd reason, Armstrong feels right at home with them. Roberts injects a lot of humor into the script to lighten the tone, like when Archer has to wear an insanely revealing costume and have Armstrong throw knives at him, while blindfolded. As it turns out, pretty much everything these guys do ends up in a fistfight.
I’m curious as to how Archer and Armstrong are going to deal with the scientists now. Apparently, Armstrong has some history with them, so we’ll have to wait and see what kind of madness he got into over the past 6,000 years that led to this cloning attempt. I’m kind of bummed that we didn’t get to see more of Mary-Maria and the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness. These are some badass ladies who can carry a story very well. It sucks that they only got three pages out of the entire issue, so I’m itching to see how they deal with the thousand assassins ready to kill Mary-Maria. Their sisterhood and loyalty to one another is strong, so I’m sure they’ll end up figuring something out. I just want to see what they decide on doing.
Artist Mike Norton illustrates this issue with a lot of movement and emotion. His line work is really clean, so we can perfectly see the character designs he has created. Norton doesn’t hold back when it comes to designing “freaks” for the circus. When it comes to the HQ of the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness, colorist Allen Passalaqua keeps everything dark, mysterious, and eerie. You never know what murderous ninja could be lurking in the shadows! For the rest of the issue, though, Passalaqua uses bright and bold colors, so as to emphasize the circus setting that Archer and Armstrong are in.
This issue progresses the straight up weird scenario of Archer and Armstrong being stuck in a circus with a bunch of Armstrong clones. It’s definitely a must-read book for anyone keeping up with the series and/or fans of the series. It’s enjoyable, but previous knowledge of past issues does help in understanding the storyline, so new readers probably won’t like it as much as we who have been reading every issue as they are released. Nonetheless, this is a bizarre yet beautiful issue, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Written by: Rafer Roberts
Illustrated by: Mike Norton