Synopsis: Armstrong, the immortal misanthrope, has gathered a few of his fellow Valiant heroes and friends to take part in an annual ritual. Once a year, Armstrong opens a vault of spirits. Within this impenetrable vault are not the spirits of the dead, but a bottle of wine from every year of his immortal life. This is a party no one wants to miss, but there are people in the shadows who want the untold treasures that lie in the vault. Plus, there is a secret history of Armstrong’s collection that binds him to the tale of Noah and the great cataclysm. Chaos and hangovers ensue when the villains attack, and it is up to the heroes to defend the vault and their good time.
Review: Armstrong and the Vault of Spirits #1 is one of the funniest one-shots Valiant has every published. Not only does it deliver on a multitude of jokes, the story itself is engaging and has character growth. Intertwining Armstrong with Noah is genius. Readers will most likely be familiar with Noah and his ark, so the writer doesn’t need to waste time building a history around the secondary back story. Van Lente instead uses this story to show that the bacchanal brute Armstrong can have moments of clarity and compassion for those around him. The entire impetus for this party demonstrates this. Also, seeing a deranged and scumbag Noah is the height of hilarity.
The visual jokes and gags seem muted in certain places, but the issue benefits from this overall. Yes, the introduction of the villains is ridiculous, yet nothing seems absurd at first glance. The marriage of the dialogue and art make benign panels reverberate with a sense of frivolity. However, the flashback scenes with Noah are what really steal the show. Noah looks like a man who isn’t all there, and it really helps sell the idea that he is a borderline insane man who got lucky.
Even if you don’t read many comedy books from Valiant, this book is definitely worth a shot.