originally written 11/09/2010
Arrowsmith is a comic that capitalizes on the popularity and success of Fables, in that it transforms the mundane into the fantastic. It also owes something, it must be said, to Harry Potter. Instead of imagining the modern world as having an unknown underpinning of fairy tale creatures with their own private world sometimes leaking out into the “Mundy ” universe, Arrowsmith gives us an alternate history of the world, with geography as vaguely recognizable but one where magic is known and lives alongside the everyday. It’s an interesting vehicle through which to relive and offer commentary on World War I. In this way, it’s a World War I that would be recognizable to the author of Johnny Got His Gun.
Part of what makes Arrowsmith: So Smart In Their Fine Uniforms (which are the first six issues of the comic) enjoyable are the clean lines and traditional styling of artist Carlos Pacheco. Fables used many artists but its signature style was maintained by the writer Bill Willingham, and it’s a similar effect here—it’s imaginative with the panels but with clear drawing talent in the drafting. Fletcher Arrowsmith is the titular hero who idealistically volunteers from the “United States of Columbia” to go join the war in “Gallia” as part of an elite flying corps. These corps aren’t in airplanes, they fly in the air with small, fire-breathing dragons as their “familiars” (sort of). Arrowsmith is thus an interesting mix of the ultra-realistic (friendly fire, underhanded tactics, the randomness of war) and the fantastic. Heiress Grace Halliard drives an ambulance like Lady Buckingham in “The War Games” but there the similarity ends!
I’m definitely interested in finding the next volumes of this series, though hopefully they won’t all be drawn over by some young reader from Camden like this one was.