Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 Review

Writer:  Kurt Busiek
Art: Carlos Pacheco and Jose Rafael Fonteriz
Letterer:  Jose Villarrubia
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 19th, 2022

Fletcher Arrowsmith’s experiences as an air fighter continue in Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1.  The book takes place on an alternate Earth in 1916, where sorcery and magical creatures exist, and World War I rages on.

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The Story

The original Arrowsmith series introduced us to an alternate Earth gripped in the throes of World War I, where the rules of magic replace technology and the world map looks far different than that of our world.  Fletcher Arrowsmith, the main character of this series, goes from being a wet-nosed volunteer for the United States Air Corps to being a veteran by the end. As Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 begins, Arrowsmith is now a seasoned soldier, and we see the daily grind of being in the midst of a war, with mornings that alternate between boredom and sudden life-threatening aerial combat.

Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco have created a fascinating world here, where the Air Corps don’t use bi-planes and guns, but instead use flying spells coupled with other spells, crossbows, and swords to battle Prussian soldiers, who also wield spells and physical weapons.  Vampires, werewolves, trolls, wizards, etc. also are involved in combat, and the combat isn’t watered-down.  Just like World War I on our Earth, the combat is brutal and blood flows like water, whether the action happens on the ground or in the air.

Fletcher Arrowsmith seems a bit more jaded in this new series.  No longer having the naivete and enthusiasm to do good in the world that he had in the original series.  He’s world-weary but still relentlessly loyal to his friends, including Rocky, his rock troll friend from back home, who makes another welcome appearance here.

This is what the book needs, to provide more companions/friends for Arrowsmith.  I liked the camaraderie between him and Barron in the last series, it reminded me of watching an old Jimmy Stewart/Errol Flynn war film, where Barron was the gallant swashbuckling Errol Flynn -type commander, always enjoying a new opportunity for combat, playing off Arrowsmith’s Jimmy Stewart-style “aw shucks” mentality and desire to always do good in the world.  Arrowsmith needs someone to interact with, because, unlike Jimmy Stewart’s characters, Arrowsmith has little personality and needs other character to bounce off of.

The bulk of the issue sets up this new mini-series and involves Arrowsmith being selected for an undercover mission deep behind Prussian lines.  I hope this means we’ll be seeing some of the legendary Prussian vampires that have been mentioned a lot but never seen.  I feel we’ve only seen a small fraction of the creatures that make up this world, and now that the story is going deep behind enemy lines, maybe we’ll get a view of things from the Prussian side, which I look forward to.

The Art

Architecture and world-building shine in Carlos Pacheco’s art for Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1. World War I era Europe has always been one of my favorite time periods, and Pacheco’s buildings and landscapes capture the feel of that dark time, with cracks in buildings and outdoor cafes lighted by dragons’ flames. It’s a beautiful mix of real and fantasy worlds, captured perfectly in every detail, right down to the military outfits the different branches wear, and the tiny cracks in Rocky’s rock troll skin.

Final Thoughts

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 takes Fletcher on a new mission behind enemy lines, and we get to spend some time with him now that a year has passed since the original series. The cliffhanger ending seems to put Fletcher in a no-win situation, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next issue.


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