July is a big month for Faith Herbert, Valiant’s high-flying heroine who has experienced a surge in popularity this year. The collection of Jody Houser and Francis Portela’s Faith miniseries hits on July 6, and two weeks later, Faith is getting her own ongoing series and appearing in A&A: The Adventures Of Archer & Armstrong #5 for her first date with her new beau Obadiah Archer. Eisner Award-winning artist Mike Norton joins A&A writer Rafer Roberts for this standalone tale of young romance (regular A&A artist David Lafuente returns in August), and The A.V. Club recently spoke with the two creators to learn more about Faith and Archer’s love connection.

“From grim and gritty anti-heroes to nihilistic villains, it sometimes seems like the world is filled with morally ambiguous and and outright nasty super-powered people,” says Roberts. “Not so with Faith and Archer. They recognize in each other a refreshing and inherent ‘goodness’ and optimistic worldview. They’re not blind to the horrors of the world, but they each react to those horrors with love and compassion.”

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Interlocking Faith and A&A variant covers by Pere Perez

“They’re coming at this whole superhero thing from the same direction,” says Roberts in regards to what attracts Faith and Archer to each other. “They’re not in it for power or for fame, but to help people and make a difference. They see the noble motivations in one another and, should this first date lead to anything more, can be each others’ rock when a fight goes bad or when faced with the kind of impossible decisions so common in the life of a crimefighter. Faith and Archer are both good people in a world where good people are in short supply.”

“I don’t want to give too much away but like most first dates it’s cute and awkward and in constant danger of being ruined by super-villain sneak attacks,” says Roberts. “Archer, having a few days off from Armstrong, asks Faith on a traditional dinner and a movie first date. Dinner is filled with nervousness and good ‘getting to know you better’ style conversation. The movie, assuming the dinner part goes well, might be filled with adorable handholding and snuggling. Being super-heroes, the night is capped off by a fight against some bad guys up to no good.”

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An Eisner Award winner for his digital comic Battlepug, Norton has worked on a huge range of comics, sharpening his storytelling skills by working within different genre with different visual sensibility. That versatility comes in handy for A&A #5, which jumps from a grounded first date to a more fantastic superhero adventure over the course of the issue.

Norton’s character studies for Archer & Armstrong

“Mike is an amazing artist and wonderful storyteller,” says Roberts. “His people are expressive, his lines are clean, and his layouts are dynamic and clear. He also has a gift for drawing everyday environments and bombastic superhero action scenes and making both feel real. I think he’s a great choice to illustrate the story of two super-heroes who spend most of the comic pretending to be ordinary people on a regular date, but who then have to fight a bunch of maniacs in weirdo suits. The powers that be at Valiant have been doing an amazing job hiring some incredible talent to work on A&A, and I’m glad that Mike agreed to join us for this very special issue.”

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A fan of the original Valiant Comics of the ’90s, Norton sees this new assignment as the fulfillment of a long-time dream. “Way back in the ’90s I sent Eternal Warrior/Bloodshot samples to Don Perlin at the OG Valiant and he sent back a ‘no thank you,’” says Norton. “He also sent along some nice constructive feedback basically saying, ‘You are not very good yet, get better.’ It took a while, but I think I did it. At last, I have achieved my 23-year-old goal of working on a Valiant comic! The fun of the originals is still in every book they do as well as a sophistication that comes with all the crazy talent they’ve been hiring.”

Readers of the first two issues of Roberts’ A&A already know that fun is one of this book’s top priorities, and that’s not changing with issue #5. “I want to have fun,” says Norton. “I want it to show in the comic. A&A is that for me. I’m gonna try to come from a place of natural storytelling, but not be afraid to get a little silly. Hopefully, it’ll show and people will dig it!” Readers can join Faith and Archer on their first date when A&A: The Adventures Of Archer & Armstrong #5 hits stands on July 20, but until then, here are the issue’s covers offering snapshots of how the evening might turn out.

Cover by Kano

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Variant cover by David Lafuente
Variant cover by Darick Robertson
Variant cover by Joe Eisma

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