Seraph’s Sanctions: ARMSTRONG AND THE VAULT OF SPIRITS #1

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Art: CAFU & Darick Robertson
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse & Diego Rodriguez
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: VALIANT COMICS (February 2018)

Quote of the Issue: “They are not long, the weeping and the laughter, love and desire and hate… I think they have no portion in us after we pass the gate… They are not long, the days of wine and roses, out of misty dreams our path emerges for a while, then closes with a dream.”

The Breakdown:
Armstrong goes to a specially made wine cellar every year that has a different drink in it … one for every year of his immortal life. This year, he brings along Archer, Faith, Quantum, Woody and Punk Mambo to enjoy all these wines once his brother, Ivar the Timewalker … shows up to unlock the wine cellar. Yet, this is the time that many secret societies show up … plus, there is a subplot with Noah and the survivors of the arc in this where Armstrong learned to field wine … And pisses off the biblical figure.

The Bad:

Honestly, while it is great seeing Armstrong bringing in this group of people for a moment to share together and I know why Vente did it, not everyone got a moment in the issue and were just kind of there. Significant to Armstrong they maybe, but for some of the characters, that was the only reason some characters had shown up.

The Moment of the Issue: 

When Armstrong is confronted with a man who is related to Caanan then tells the man that he is not cursed cause Noah was crazy … there was genuine hope for the descendent of Caanan … only to get snatched away as the wine cellar was about to close and Faith scooped up Armstrong trapping old boy in the wine cellar …which we know whose defenses would kill him.

The Good: 

The art in this was superb. We have two different styles but having the past portions done by Robertson was an excellent idea. The gritty pencils worked great in showing Armstrong during the time of Noah and the Ark. Robertson’s pencils along with Rodriguez’s colors were wonderful and vibrant. We got to get a feel of that time period as Robertson clearly had fun with the characters there. Meanwhile, the present was slickly done by CAFU and Dalhouse, which was a bit darker in color tone but still very wonderful to look at. CAFU does a great job of convey a LOT of emotion in this one shot while presenting some awesome action. Dalhouse colors CAFU’s work to perfection as the art stands out.

Yet, this one one shot was multilayered and it showed. Van Lente shows us why he is still the master of writing Armstrong after all this time. As much of a drunk Armstrong is, he does indeed care about people closest to him. And Van Lente has that on display throughout the entire issue.  From the people that were chosen to go with Armstrong to the wine cellar to the ending which brought that fact to bear, Armstrong got to shine showing a softer side of himself without being obvious about it till the final pages. It seemed that this theme of family was very much the tie that binds the issue as Neela does an impactful cameo, Punk Mambo is there to channel Gilad for the brothers and there is a small but meaningful discussion between Ivar and Archer that really puts a very nice top on everything. Van Lente shows that while Ivar might be Armstrong’s brother, Archer might very well know Armstrong better. These alone could have been the driving force of the book … but Van Lente had to go the extra mile with the tale of Armstrong dealing with Noah in the past that tie into the present. Van Lente made sure that we got the signature laughs that made his run of Archer and Armstrong so beloved while being wacky and powerful at the same time. Truly, this is one of Van Lente’s best written single issues ever.

The Verdict: 

This book was awesome. It was fun. It plays with some events as detailed from The Bible but in a very Archer and Armstrong way that make it entertaining. The art from the artists were absolutely superb. Yet, Van Lente knocks it out of the park with the writing. While i definitely understand while Quantum & Woody are there, in terms of significance to Armstrong. Yet, other than that, they kind of take up space. Yet, everyone else play an important part. Van Lente gets some great character development in for Ivar, Armstrong and Archer while allowing readers to enjoy the ride while still being impactful. This was a fun one-shot! Absolutely awesome.