When you're a boy, warrior
s and combat
often seem terribly romantic
. You may read tales of the Lafayette Escadrille
and imgine yourself out there with Lufbery
, dueling with the Hun
, wind whistling through the wires of your Neiuport
Fletcher Arrowsmith is the viewpoint character of Arrowsmith, a comic written by Astro City's Kurt Busiek and pencilled by Carlos Pacheco. it is set in World War I, but the war is very different. Arrowsmith's word in many ways resemble's the world of Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker, a world like ours, but where magic is real and powerful, where technology and sorcery intermingle. Men, trolls and dragons work together, Ancient Gods and wizards serve, and manipulate, the governnment and armies of man. The countries are the same, yet different, with Gallia and Albion standing in for France and Britain in a brutal war with Prussia.
When the story begins, Fletcher is the teenage son of a blacksmith back in the United States of Columbia when a group of allied flyers come by on a recruiting trip. They're Americans of the Overseas Air Bureau, expatriates who fiy and die for the allies. Only they don't need a Spad to fly. Tiny dragons, called dragonets perch on their shoulders, and they fly alone, the pink glow of magic lighting their feet.
Arrowsmith is mesmerized, not only what they can do, but because these men seem to him like knight-errants, warriors for good in world threatened by the blackest evil. His father is isolationist, suspicious of magic and foreign powers. Rocky the troll, a family friend lived over there and fled to Columbia when his family was killed. He advises Fletcher not to go. But his best friend also feels the romance of war, and signs up. And so, Fletcher does as well, convinced that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Military life is not how Fletcher expected. A young boy's illusions quickly fall away in this coming of age story. He finds his first girlfriend, Grace. He gets into brawls. And even more quickly discovers that war is darker and more horrid than anything he can imagine.
The world is beautifully drawn by Pacheco, colorist Alex Sinclair, inker Jesus Merino and Comicraft. The colors flow together, the art always believable and the colors absolutely wonderful. It is a strange mix of technology and the wierd, with dinosaurs transporting modern artillery, where men bond with dragons and fight with both gun and crossbow, as Iron is anathema to magic.
Busiek is one of comic's finest writers, and his skill shows in every issue. Fletcher is likable and real, a good person in way over his head. If you are a comics fan, you owe it yourself to check out this growing story.