Industry veterans writer Kurt Busiek (Astro City, Conan The Barbarian) and artist Carlos Pacheo (X-Men, Fantastic Four) have returned to their original creation after an almost 20-year hiatus with Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1. Along with inks from Jose Rafael Fonteriz, colors by Jose Villarruiba, and letters from Tyler Smith and Jimmy Betancourt, this wonderfully unique and visually stunning return sees a blending of genres and styles that is a rare achievement even in the comics medium. With a stellar script and incredible visual work, this long-awaited return is one that is sure to please old readers and intrigue newcomers alike.
“Young airman Fletcher Arrowsmith plunges back into the heat of war—and finds himself behind enemy lines, facing a threat that could doom the Allied Powers.”
Writing & Plot
It shouldn’t be surprising to see contemporary comics legend Kurt Busiek come up with an idea so unique like that found in Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1. While it may be old news to fans of the 2003 series So Smart In Their Fine Uniforms (which will receive the deluxe hardcover treatment this April), new readers such as myself will no doubt be dazzled by the blending of genres here. The first few pages’ appearing like many WWI stories, journalistic narrative and all, serves as a great misdirection. As soon as the tiny dragons and magical airborne swordfights appear, the full brunt of creativity on display here comes to light. This is a world with a lived-in fantastical mystery that is so intriguing because it also comes off as relatable and realistic. The backgrounds of the characters and the wartime struggles here are the same as the ones in our own world. Here, they just have dragons and golems as a common occurrence.
Busiek’s writing itself is split up between naturalistic dialogue and overhead narrative. Said narrative is delivered in the guise of journal entries, a common feature in war stories. This further lends that sort of familiarity in the fantastical I mentioned earlier. Creating the sense that this happened in some way, like so many period piece war stories do, is the spark that makes this comic work so well as a concept. The magical elements feel so matter-of-fact that their whimsy fades into a reality as the story pulls the reader in. This is brilliant work by Busiek, and I can’t wait to read the oncoming chapters.
There aren’t many artists who could bring the grounded yet magical feeling found in Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 to life. Fortunately, Carlos Pacheo is here to team up with Busiek again to do just that. Just like in the original series, Pacheo’s light, animated pencils bring a detail and relatability to his characters. At the same time, his designs and touches of magic in this world combine with the facsimile WWI aesthetic to pull the reader effortlessly into the unique creation we see here. Pacheo uses thin, arguably faint lines that, in conjunction with Jose Rafael Fonteriz’s smoky inks, deliver an artistic storytelling feel that captures the seriousness in the fantastical perfectly.
The watercolor-style technique brought by Jose Villarrubia continues to add to the wartime aesthetic, crafting something that combines the fog of war with a sort of mystic, dreamlike feeling. Arrowsmith’s visual style is as wonderfully unique as its core concept is.
Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 is a sharply written and gorgeous return to this long-absent world. Kurt Busiek pens a script that takes familiar war story tropes and blends them with the wonder of a long-present magic system while keeping the comic’s core themes intact. The visuals from Carlos Pacheo, Jose Rafael Fonteriz, and Jose Villarrubia are stunningly animated and atmospheric, with a blend of styles that humanizes the characters, grounds the setting, and brings the mystical elements to life in a consistently manner. Be sure to grab this wonderful opening issue when it hits shelves on 1-19!