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Comic Book / Arrowsmith

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Arrowsmith is a fantasy comic book by writer Kurt Busiek and penciller Carlos Pacheco, published by Wildstorm's Cliffhanger imprint. It first premiered as a six-issue miniseries in 2003.

The series is set in an Alternate History Earth in which the United States of America is actually the United States of Columbia, magic is real, and the First World War is fought with and by dragons, spells, vampires and all other kinds of magical weapons and beings.

The story follows the protagonist, Fletcher Arrowsmith, as he joins the war effort on the side of the Allies, gets taught the rudiments of sorcery and engages in some brutal battles with the enemy Prussians.

Not to be confused with the novel by Sinclair Lewis.

Arrowsmith contains examples of:

  • Artificial Zombie: The setting's equivalent of mustard gas is a Deadly Gas that kills its victims and then raises their corpses as zombies.
  • Badass Longcoat: The Prussian airmen's uniforms. Also various countries' infantry soldiers, who wear trenchcoats.
  • Beast of Battle: The dragons used for areal combat.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Apart from a few plot-important scenes with Gallian characters, the dialogue is rendered in the language the characters are actually speaking.
  • The Butcher: A squad of airmen earns the nickname "Butchers of Holbrück."
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Pointedly averted.
    Captain Foxe (on the Gallian soldiers): They have to fight for the ground we fly over. Every foot, every inch of it paid for with blood. I admire them for it, respect them beyond measure, but I don't envy them.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: There are a lot of references to the things in the world that are never elaborated.
  • Deadly Gas: The setting's equivalent of mustard gas is a deadly gas that kills its victims and then raises their corpses as Artificial Zombies.
  • Different States of America: The United States of America is known as the United States of Columbia due to the magical races choosing to reveal themselves during the signing of the Peace of Charlemagne, their version of what we call the Pax Nicephori in our world.
  • Divided States of America: What would be the USA and Canada in our reality is (as of 1914) divided into the United States of Columbia, Acadia-Canada, Tejas, Deseret, California, Dakota, Newfoundland (Northern Canada and Alaska) and Grand Florida (which includes Bermuda and the Bahamas).
  • Eagle Squadron: Fletcher enlists in his reality's equivalent of the Lafayette Escadrille, gets taught the rudiments of sorcery and travels to Gallia where he engages in some brutal aerial battles with the enemy Prussians.
  • Fantasy Americana: Up to the point where the story leaves Columbia.
  • Farm Boy: Young Fletcher Arrowsmith is a farm boy living a quiet life until a recruiter inspires him to run away and join the war being fought in Europe. And that's where his story really starts...
  • If We Get Through This…: As fatal as a family photo, and incredibly fast.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): All of the European powers bear old names for the territories, like Prussia, Gallia and Albion.
  • Mirroring Factions: The sides of the war. Underlined with a Description Cut.
    Captain Foxe: That's the difference between us and them — even if our wizards had the sort of minds that could even think of such things, we would never, never use them.
    Cut to magister Boisrond testing the new weapons of mass destruction.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Fletcher thinks he should be one, but he's not, and neither are the other airmen. Later, the trope is defied in no uncertain terms.
    Fletcher: I'm not a gentleman, all right? My father's a blacksmith!
  • Oh, Crap!: Verduiveld! The attacking vampires are not even the enemy's!
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Airmen are soldiers who fly by magically transferring the flight ability of a dragonet (baby dragon) into themselves. Each airman has his own dragonet companion who typically rides his shoulder, and he wears strips of skin shed by the dragonet's mother to help form a bond between them.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The are at least two distinct types of zombie within the world. One an Artificial Zombie that is created by a weapon of mass destruction: a magical gas that kills anyone who breathes it and then raises them as a zombie. The other is the traditional Voodoo Zombie, who are seen serving as part of the Gallian colonial troops.
  • Protagonist Title: The central character is Fletcher Arrowsmith.
  • Recycled In Space: First World War with magic!
  • Repetitive Name: The synonym version applies to the title character: Fletcher Arrowsmith.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Soldiers bond with small "dragonets" by means of a rare mystical metal. This bond allows the soldiers to fly with their dragonets perched on their arms like hunting falcons.
  • They Walk Among Us: Various fantasy races such as trolls live alongside humans; albeit as second-class citizens in many places.
  • The Unmasqued World: At the forging of the Peace of Charlemagne (the Pax Nicephori in the real world), the various hidden magical races of the world decided to make their existence openly known to humanity, also joining in the peace treaty. Dryads, trolls, dwarves, etc. live among humanity, magic co-exists side-by-side with technology. The Industrial Revolution is causing a magical revolution, as spells become mass-produced for the first time in human history.
  • Voodoo Zombie: Voodoo zombies are seen as part of the Gallian colonial troops; where their role is presumably to serve as cannon fodder.
  • War Is Hell: Behind the dragons and mages is a very traditional First World War story.
  • Weird Historical War: Magic is real, and World War I is fought with and by dragons, spells, vampires and all other kinds of magical weapons and beings.
  • Worthy Opponent: The airmen don't kill enemy airmen who have been rendered harmless, and when they're able to recover their opponents' corpses, they are returned to their own side for the funeral. This is contrasted with what their bombings do to enemy civilians.
    Fletcher: I wonder if they'd been so eager to [return the corpse] if they knew Foxe led the "Butchers of Holbrück."