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Arrowsmith #6

Posted: Friday, April 9, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Carlos Pacheco (p), Jesus Merino (i)

Publisher: Cliffhanger Comics

The Plot:
As Arrowsmith is burdened by the guilt of his involvement in an attack that destroyed an entire village full of noncombatants, we see his guilt is compounded when the enemies attack crying out for vengeance for the cowardly attack that was committed by the allies. As Captain Foxe is killed driving off a vampire attack, we see Arrowsmith becomes responsible for leading a group of soldiers across enemies lines to safety, and thanks to the arrival of a mysterious fog, he's able to accomplish this rather easily.

The Good:
It's nice to get a hero who is torn up by the idea that he was responsible for the death of others, even when the death were clearly the result of a tragic accident, as far too often in comics characters will neatly rationalize away their guilt when someone points out it wasn't their fault. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it's nice to see a character so torn up by his involvement in so many deaths, and what's more we get a great little moment where we discover the other side is using this accident as proof of the savagery that the Allies are capable of. This issue also manages to cleverly insert some other fantasy elements into the story, as I loved the little exchange that is offered up by the elf, as he offers up his opinion of mankind's expansion into the new territories, and how the subsequent increase of shoe shops will help him make a good living for his family. I also loved the addition of the horror movie elements, as while they are never really seen inside the book, I loved the idea that vampires are running around the battlefield, and the werewolf attack in this issue was also a fun throw away moment in this issue. I also enjoyed the scene where the wizards responsible for the devastating fire salamander weapon don't really seem to be overly disturbed by the notion that they've created a weapon that accidentally destroyed an entire town, I also have to say that it was nice to see the brave hero who gave his life in this issue to save Arrowsmith's group was Canadian, as it's not often acknowledged that Canada was pulled into the Second World war alongside the other Commonwealth countries when Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Carlos Pacheco turns in a very solid issue, and while I'm glad to hear he'll be making the jump back to super-heroes, his work on this miniseries has shown he's the ideal artist for the fantasy genre as well as there's some wonderful visuals in this issue from the exploding elf head scene, and the quiet sense of wonder in the final page as Arrowsmith takes to the sky. The war aspect of the book is also well presented as there's a great one page shot in this issue where we see the battle is raging between the two sides, and a closer study of the battle sequence reveals some truly horrific acts of violence. There's also a level of detail to his art that sets his work above most of today's artists, as the battle fields look like truly nightmarish environments, and all the towns and villages clearly reflect the idea that they been subjected to some battle damage. There's also some pretty powerful images, like the scene where the bodies are being piled up, or our look at the field of crosses. The wonderfully creepy cover image also rates a mention, even if it does offer up a scene that doesn't play out inside.

The Bad:
Not exactly the thrill-packed finish that I was expecting, as Kurt Busiek instead opts for a more interpersonal conflict to carry this final issue. Now watching our hero dealing with the guilt that stems from his involvement in a tragic accident that wiped out an entire village of men, women and children makes for an engaging reading experience, but given the book ends with the character deciding that letting himself be consumed by guilt isn't going to help anyone, I found myself a bit troubled by this issue's lack of any real reward for readers who picked up the entire miniseries. I mean the cover promises what looks to be an exciting encounter between our heroes and a band of vampire creatures, but inside the book this encounter not only takes place off panel, but doesn't involve the characters shown on the cover. We also have the exciting scenario of Arrowsmith being called upon to lead a group of soldiers across enemy lines, and all the exciting moments are pretty much fettered away thanks to the convenient arrival of a fog bank that allows Arrowsmith's group to make their way through enemy lines completely without incident. Even the big confrontation scene of this issue where Arrowsmith finds his warnings about the fire salamander weapons are falling on deaf ears fails to deliver, as Arrowsmith doesn't speak up to enforce his position on the subject but rather he lets them walk away while he mopes around doing nothing. In the end the biggest disappointment about this final issue is that Arrowsmith isn't called upon to do anything all that heroic.

Good Gods, What Is It Good For:
Not exactly the strongest finish to what I had been finding a highly enjoyable exploration of clever merging of two genres. I mean instead of going out with a bang this issue instead delivers a more character based story as we see Arrowsmith spends the issue dealing with his guilt over the role that he played in the destruction of an entire town. However this personal struggle with his conscious results in an issue where the action is forced largely into the background, and Arrowsmith is stuck moving through a story where nothing overly exciting occurs once that opening battle has wrapped up. In fact if nothing else I'd argue that the character is portrayed as being far too passive in the way that he deals with the situation, as there's a moment where he recognizes that the wizards responsible for the fire salamander spell don't care about the idea that an entire town was destroyed, and instead of pressing the issue, and challenging their indifference, Arrowsmith does nothing. I mean this was a moment where the character could've took a stand, but the issue misses the boat completely. Still there's enough enjoyable moments in this miniseries that I've looking forward to Arrowsmith's next adventure.



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