REVIEW: ‘Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Arrowsmith Behind Enemy Lines #1 - But Why Tho

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 is written by Kurt Busiek, penciled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jose Rafael Fonteriz, colored by Jose Villarrubia, and lettered by Comicraft’s Tyler Smith and Jimmy Betancourt. It’s published by Image Comics. In an alternate universe, World War 1 wasn’t fought with just bullets and bombs—both sides also utilized magical forces. Fletcher Arrowsmith, an American soldier, is drafted for a critical recon mission that will take him into Prussian-controlled territory and perhaps the most dangerous battleground he’s ever faced.

Behind Enemy Lines marks the beginning of Busiek’s line of creator-owned comics at Image, and it’s a great start, if I’m being honest. While Busiek is best known for his work at DC (including Batman: Creature of the Night and Superman: Secret Identity) and Marvel (his work inspired Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Endgame), his creator-owned work is just as creative and gripping. Most writers would usually blend just two genres, but Busiek goes for three as Arrowsmith is part war epic, part historical fiction, and part fantasy; soldiers utilize dragons to fly and load their crossbows with magical spells. But the real magic comes from Busiek’s skillful character work. He makes Arrowsmith feel like a fully fleshed-out human being, especially with a scene where he deals a fatal blow to a rival soldier and freezes up. As he later states in his narration, war doesn’t afford time for introspection. I also love Arrowsmith’s interactions with his troll friend Rocky and dragon Hilda, which were highly heartwarming to read.

Pacheco, who illustrated the first Arrowsmith series, returns for Behind Enemy Lines and immerses the reader in the strange world. Aerial battles feature soldiers walking on air, with magic dancing around their feet and dragons perching over their shoulders. Rocky is a literal mountain, with moss growing on his shoulders and a mustache made of leaves. And Fonteriz brings a rugged, realistic texture to the pages with his inks. Villarrubia leans into the war aspect of the book by using color art that has a faded look to it, making the comic look like it was published in a bygone age.

However, the most intriguing part of the issue is the lettering by Smith and Betancourt. Each character has a distinct way of speaking; Prussian soldiers have harsh, jagged letters while Rocky’s speech bubbles take the shape of a boulder. And whenever spells are cast, the user’s speech bubbles turn green with golden letters. Arrowsmith’s inner thoughts are also depicted on captions that look like they were ripped from parchment, making the whole comic feel like a fantasy novel you’d discover in a bookstore.

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 marks the start of Kurt Busiek’s creator-owned reign at Image, with Carlos Pacheco delivering a world that straddles the line between history and fantasy. Whether or not you’ve read the first Arrowsmith series, this is a comic that has a little something for everyone and is definitely worth the read.

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 is available wherever comics are sold.


Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1
5

TL;DR

Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 marks the start of Kurt Busiek’s creator-owned reign at Image, with Carlos Pacheco delivering a world that straddles the line between history and fantasy. Whether or not you’ve read the first Arrowsmith series, this is a comic that has a little something for everyone and is definitely worth the read.