To date every volume of Archer & Armstrong has been thoroughly entertaining, and this is no different. Fred Van Lente, however, teases. Yes, we do want to know the origin of the Sect, but quite honestly we’d prefer an immediate follow-up to the astonishing conclusion of Far Faraway. Well, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s picked up in the second chapter.

By then we’ve become used to another new artist, Khari Evans. To say there’s an anonymity to the art would be to do down both Evans and every other artist who’s worked on the series, but they’ve all sublimated individual touches to ensure the clear storytelling style that’s characterised the series to date is maintained. Evans really shines when it comes to the locations used over the story. It’s not every artist who’d put that much effort into the complexities of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, especially as the external shots are only required for scene-setting. Over the later chapters ChrisCross also contributes pages, and he’s equally good.

Detailing the origin of the Sect, of course, has a purpose, not the least in helping us keep the sub-sects straight via Evans’ handy spread (see featured page). Of them all, it’s still Project Rising Spirit that concerns us, as it’s where Archer believes he’ll discover more about his true background. However, several other covert organisations are vying for power, each of them believing they’ll be victorious, hence the title. As ever, Archer and Armstrong are the wild cards.

When last seen Armstrong was stranded in Far Faraway along with his brother Ivar, recently rescued, and also known as Timewalker. What’s the solution? A pub crawl through the centuries. Van Lente’s plot effortlessly supplies the wherewithall, and he cleverly ties it in with events of the past related in the opening chapter. Jumping back and forth around history offers plenty of small and delightful moments “You’re a legend at that bank”, Archer is told by a messenger, “A safety account building interest for a hundred years just to pay for us to deliver this note to you at this place on this date.” It’s a great touch, and there are several others as Van Lente switches between a primary cast enlarged for Sect Civil War.

It’s also now apparent that Van Lente intentionally concludes every story arc by pulling the rug from expectations. Each book to date has ended with a jaw-dropping plot development that drags the reader toward the next as rapidly as possible. That would be Mission: Improbable.

Archer & Armstrong Deluxe Edition 2 combines this collection with the next two in durable oversize hardcover format.