Review by Karl Verhoven
Over the previous four books Archer and Armstrong have engaged with other characters from the wider Valiant universe, but this has generally been those already connected to Armstrong. As the cover to Mission: Impossible displays, that wider universe now intrudes further. It also breaches the policy used to date of a single consistent creative team per volume. This is because the involvement of Bloodshot extended beyond a guest appearance into a crossover, and the creative team on his title are responsible for those chapters.
We begin, however, looking back at Archer’s upbringing, first as an abducted child tested for powers, then among the twisted Christianity of the Sect. It clarifies Archer’s ability to assess and imitate the talents of others instantly, so becoming adept himself. It’s a hearbreaking tale of abuse, yet reinforces the saintly nature of Archer’s personality, and his inner strength.
That inner strength came to the fore during Sect Civil War when he took the decision to assume the running of the Sect, and to re-channel its resources into a power for good. This is either deliberately concealed from Bloodshot and the covert organisation he works for, or they’re unaware of the circumstances. Either way, the meeting of Archer and Armstrong with Bloodshot follows that well trodden comic path of the misunderstanding.
In its entirety the art doesn’t match the previous volumes. Pere Pérez, who drew one of those, is fine, storytelling and exciting layouts fused well, but while Tom Raney’s page designs are good, he has problems with the figures, scale, and foreshortening. These supply an unnatural look to his pages. One sequence features a deliberately small car, but shortly afterward there’s an ambulance on almost the same scale. The writing of Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart moves the plot along, but doesn’t have the subtlety that Fred Van Lente employs, and their dialogue explains the plot too often at the cost of credibility: “Without those amino acid transfusions they give you, you’ll die, right?”
The best sequence in the book is Archer letting loose against H.A.R.D. Corps, a bunch of soldiers able to download a single super power at a time. Van Lente and Pérez take him through his paces and introduce a surprising new sideline. The story improves as it continues, but lacks the bombshell surprises that have previously featured. By the conclusion the world of Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps has been changed, while Archer and Armstrong are on course to investigate American Wasteland.
Both volumes are also found as part of the oversized hardcover Archer & Armstrong Deluxe Edition 2.