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Comic Book / The Sword Of Ardenois

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The Sword of Ardenois (originally published as L'Epee d'Ardenois) is an action-adventure comic book series written and drawn by Belgian artist Étienne Willem.

Set in a medieval Europe-like world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, it tells the story of Garen, a teenage rabbit who is involuntarily dragged into a conflict rising between the neighbouring domains when emissaries of the evil sorcerer-warlord Nuhy return to the realm 20 years after his apparent demise. Witnessing his village destroyed and his friend, a retired knight who was crucial in slaying Nuhy, killed by his minions, he must now set out on a journey to help the legendary Dawn Brigade stop the new war before it's too late. And his old companion's weapon, the titular Sword of Ardenois, may be the key to their victory.

The series, originally published in French from 2010-2015, consists of four roughly 50-page volumes that together create an epic, multi-layered story that requires multiple readings to fully absorb and which, despite its Asterix-like art style, should not be read by anyone younger than teens due to its mature, often violent content.


As of mid-2019, the series has been published in France, the Netherlands, and Poland, and is currently a stand-alone title with no information on whether Willem, now creating other comic series, will ever return to the Sword's setting.

The Sword of Ardenois provides examples of:

  • Animal Stereotypes: Several of characters are intentionally portrayed as specific animal types:
    • Garen (rabbit) : the young, inexperienced, and initially weak, both strength and will-wise.
    • Arthus (bear) : big, strong, loudmouthed, short-tempered.
    • Weasel (well, weasel) : fast, nimble, usually aiming for the element of surprise and deadly when achieves it.
    • Grimbert (fox): intelligent, cunning, quick on his feet, preffers to avoid fights when given the choice.
  • Apathetic Citizens: With the amount of violence and misery the dwellers of the realm face on a nearly daily basis, they are really emotionally hardened, and if the events don't affect them directly, nothing really fazes them. Even Garen hardly reacts to some nightmare fuel material unless he's involved in it personally.
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  • Arc Words: "To support your king, you first have to trust him."
  • Awesome by Analysis: Even before he proves to be a decent fighter, Garen occasionally displays a sharp mind that is useful in figuring out the Goaat's agenda on the go and deciding what the Dawn Brigade needs to do at the moment.
  • Battle Couple / Old Flame: It is subtly hinted that Arthus and Weasel were a couple back in the days of the last war, but he did something to drive her away and hadn't seen her for nearly two decades. So, when she reappears in his life, he tries to rekindle their romance, but she won't have it. And for good reasons too.
  • Battle Cry: Garen's "Justice and Might!" that he copied from Gotfried of Ardenois.
  • Bears Are Bad News: You really don't want to fight on the side opposing Arthus unless you come with a large group of highly skilled soldiers. Otherwise the Scottish bear will prepare you for breakfast with his axe and raw physical strength even at his age.
  • Big Bad: Goaat of the Cursed Forest, Nuhy's right-hand man and herold during the last war. Seemingly killed along with his master, he returns to wreck havoc and resurrect his liege back to conquer the land, causing distress wherever he goes.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Most people think Garen's polite, seemingly frail disposition means he poses no threat. And while sometimes they are right, when he's properly motivated, they quickly regret dismissing him.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Once Weasel sees that Garen is a good person trying hard to help the Dawn Brigade (and actually helping), she becomes visibly irritated whenever she sees Arthus chewing him up for the slightest perceived mistake.
  • Break the Cutie: One of the main plot points of the story is how Garen, raised in a fairly safe and friendly environment, gradually loses his innocence and idealism as he's continuously exposed to the harsh, cold reality that gets extra-sour flavoured by the conflict he's forced to partake in.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mostly averted. While people like Arthus tend to dismiss Garen's ideas and observations, Grimbert and Weasel carefully listen to what he says, as his input often proves valuable to the team.
  • Casanova Wannabe: One of Grimbert's hobbies is flirtatiously groping women he encounters in taverns the Dawn Brigade visits; they don't seem to mind.
  • Casting a Shadow: Goaat of the Cursed Forest has several abilities involving shadow manipulation: he can use them to bind his enemies, sneak up on them, enter or leave otherwise secured areas, and even create fauximilles that do his bidding.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Well, a blade in this case. During Dawn Brigade's first direct encounter with Goaat and his troops, Weasel gets injured and lends Garen one of her combat daggers, urging him to back the other members up. This single weapon proves vital to foiling Goaat's plans for the day, due to multiple instances of Garen's Combat Pragmatist handling of it.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Garen's ability to deliver surprise airkicks after using what he currently holds in hand as a makeshift jumping pole. When he first demonstrates this while training with Gotfried, the latter jokes that this can't be done when in a swordfight. But, for example, in a church full of self-standing chandeliers...
  • The Chessmaster: Actually a few of them, each with their own chessboard.
  • Chick Magnet: Garen, once he proves he can be a capable and reliable person.
  • The Chosen One: Young Garen seems to be this to some people.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Garen of all people, and it helps him balance out his small stature and low brute power- he can improvise weapons from his surroundings and use higher grounds and hanging ropes to deliver surprise attacks to his enemies; his signature move is using various objects he finds as jumping poles to perform airkicks that usually catch his targets completely off-guard.
  • Cool Big Sis: Of all the current Dawn Brigade members, Garen definitely likes Weasel the most, as not only is she a major badass, but also constantly offers him support and kindness (even more than Grimbert), and even has no problem with lending him her weapons when she thinks he can use them better in a given situation.
  • Crapsack World: The setting of this comic is not a place you want to live in if you can help it. Individual life is of almost no value and every day simply existing puts you and your family in danger of getting robbed, raped or killed (usually all above simultanously) by marauders or enemies of your realm. And with highly limited information flow, rescue is almost always too late to save you... that is, if someone actually thought you mean enough to send a rescue party in the first place.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Weasel I hid several weapons within hand's reach when meeting up with her daughter, and it paid off sooner than she wanted.
  • Death of a Child: Several children are seen being attacked or already killed by Goaat's soldiers during the raid on Garen's village.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: Male-to-male example. Arthus is usually very vocal about his dislike for Garen, whom he sees as dead weight and foil for the Dawn Brigade, and only after he sees him prove his usefullness in dire combat situations time and time again does he start to form some sort of respect and sympathy for the teenage rabbit.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: After Nuhy was killed in the last war, his suit of armour was split into several pieces, each given for keepsake to one of the of domains allied against him as a token of trust and good faith. And since the recompleted armour can potentially revive him, Goaat of the Cursed Forest is bent on retrieving them at all costs, so the Dawn Brigade has to chase his forces in hopes of finding and securing each armour piece before he does.
  • Disney Death: Averted, if someone dies on-panel, they stay dead.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The mage helping Garen and Dawn Brigade from the sidelines is called Magis.
  • Fanservice: Many female characters are drawn with some anatomical details that could be easily omitted if it wasn't for their male appeal, especially in the breast area- few ladies, named or not, are not decently endowed with big cleavages to back it up, and many of them have their nipples gently poking through their clothes.
  • Feeling Their Age: Grimbert often complains how fighting was much easier for him 20 years ago.
  • Five-Man Band: The Dawn Brigade, though it's a bit different than usual.
    • The Leader: Gotfried of Ardenois (dog), though most think of him this way because he was crucial in killing Nuhy during the last war. He was one of the first casualties of the new Nuhy crisis, being murdered on the beginning pages of the story.
    • The Smart Guy: Grimbert (fox). Member of the Hospitalier order and arguably the brain of the team who acts as an unofficial leader during the new Nuhy crisis.
    • The Big Guy: Arthus (bear). The Scottish, axe-wielding powerhouse of the Brigade with a soft spot for Weasel and a very sour one for Garen.
    • The Chick: Weasel (well, weasel). The only woman on the team and its stealth expert and infiltrator, who seems to have aged unusually well considering how old she is.
    • The Heart / New Meat: Garen (rabbit). The protagonist and audience-POV character who joins the Brigade because of his previous ties with Gotfried and the knowledge on Goaat's whereabouts and what they must do to stop him. Grimbert and Weasel quickly grow fond of him, but Arthus is clearly unhappy to share the quest with him.
  • Fragile Speedster: Garen and Weasel, who both have relatively light body builds and rely on their agility and clever weapon use rather than brute force. And while Weasel can still sustain minor injuries before becoming combat-useless, all it takes to stop Garen is a single well-placed hit.
  • Funny Background Event: Brilliantly integrated into the main plot: when Garen first enters the capital to warn the king about Goaat's return, he gets arrested for trying to sneak into the castle unauthorized. The same guards that locked him up are present during an important diplomatic meeting, and when a matter Garen claimed to have knowledge of is mentioned, they wonder if maybe they should let him out before someone finds out they arrested an important witness without telling anyone. Cue the captain of the guard appearing behind them, wondering the same thing. Skip to the next panel, and Garen is giving his report to the assembly.
  • Furry Confusion: This setting includes both human-bodied animals and some regular animals, so it is fully possible for a horse character to ride an actual real-life horse.
  • Furry Reminder: Garen's mother, a rabbit, once mentions she has twelve children.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: It is commonly established that Nuhy was slayed by Bohan's previous king, Tankred Old, using his Sword Of Dawn, but the truth is he was killed by Gotfried of Ardenois, who at the time was Tankred's right-hand man. However, for the sake of political alliances and stability, Gotfried agreed to give the credit to his king, and himself retired from knighthood soon after, content in remaining out of the spotlight. For this exact reason, Garen, the current wielder of Sword of Ardenois, is the one who has to slay Nuhy again.
  • Heroic Bastard:Garen, and he is fully aware of it from the very beginning; he just doesn't think there's any need to reveal this unless someone asks him directly. Turns out his mother was a maid in the castle of a recently widowed count, and she gave birth to Garen after they fell in love and began an out-of-wedlock relationship. Garen even carries his father's ring around his neck as a proof of his heritage.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Completely averted, the only people who miss their targets are explicitly portrayed as inexperienced fighters. More skilled characters, and even majority of mooks, however, tend to strike exactly where they want, or at least close enough to still deal damage to their opponents.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Garen considered Gotfried of Ardenois, the retired war hero, his best friend and mentor, and once he joins the Dawn Brigade, he also quickly earns sympathy of Grimbert and Weasel.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arthus, at least when it comes to Garen; while he's fairly nice to everyone else, he hates the rabbit's guts and lets him know at every turn. It takes a long time and many shared perils for him to warm up to the boy even slightly.
  • Killed Offscreen: Surprisingly little; if someone first appears alive and then dies, their mortal transition is shown 90% of the time.
  • Legacy Character: Everyone is amazed how, despite her age, Weasel seems to be in prime shape and maybe even a bit younger looking after Dawn Brigade's reunion. The reason is that it's not truly her, but her daughter that she had with Arthus, taking up her mantle while the original is working in the shadows to save the realm.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While there are a few characters and locations that seem to have magical powers that affect the plot to varying degrees, it's not made clear if magic truly exists or there is something else to their powers, as aside them, the Sword's world seems perfectly natural and mugolish in every way imaginable.
  • Mature Animal Story: Despite it's Asterix-with-humanoid-animals art style, the comic does not sugarcoat the medieval times and often shows bloodshed of all ages, variously mutilated bodies and even (in the backgrounds) attempted rape. Also, it has a fair amount of female-based fanservice.
  • McGuffin: Actually two:
    • The titular sword that, according to a recently discovered prophecy, has the power to defeat Nuhy for good should he find a way to come back to life.
    • Nuhy's suit of armour from the last war. According to Goaat of the Cursed Forest, putting it back together will make it possible to perform a ritual that can bring the warlord back from the dead.
  • Moral Dissonance: Related to the Crapsack World motif, many characters are perfectly willing to accept various acts of cruelty if the recipients are not on their side or they aren't involved personally - for example, Garen struggles with the idea of killing enemies with his own hands, but is fine with with his allies killing the exact same people and doesn't even blink when their (sometimes mutilated) corpses are hanged off the walls of the fortress they are stationed at and defended from the said enemies the day before.
  • Off with His Head!: How Gotfried was killed by Goaat's henchmen.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Garen usually refers to Gotfried of Ardenois simply as the Knight, sometimes Ardenoian. In contrast, his former companions constantly use his real name.
  • Rescue Romance: A peasant mouse whom Garen saves along with her daughter during one of the raids he stumbles upon quickly becomes attracted to him, up the point where she becomes angry when he fails to notice her subtle advances or unawarely dismisses them.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Once one knows how the story develops in the end, it's much easier to spot subtle hints of future plot threads on display much earlier than they occur.
  • Sadistic Choice: Weasel II is tasked by her mother to kill Garen due to his politically destructive potential as someone quickly rising to national fame but easy to manipulate due to his inexperience. This means she can either go through with it, killing someone she rapidly grew attached to and may be slowly falling in love with, or spare him and risk him being used in the conspiracy her mother slowly uncovers.
  • Sidekick Graduations Stick: The reformed Dawn Brigade hoped the retired Gotfried would join them to fight in the newly developing crisis, but he died before they could find him and instead chose Garen, the closest thing to Gotfried's squire, as his replacement in their roster.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Arthus for Weasel, even after nearly 20 years.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Gotfried of Ardenois, also simply known as the Knight. He was a member of the Dawn Brigade and a major contributor to ending the last war, after which he retired and lived in Garen's village, becoming the latter's closest friend and mentor in the art of combat and chivarly. And while he is killed within the first ten pages of the comic, his teachings are heavily embedded in Garen's heart and serve as his moral compass even deep into the story. The time he spent with Garen also allowed the boy to be accepted relatively easily (bears not-withstanding) into the reformed Dawn Brigade as Gotfried's replacement. And appareantly his sword has the potential to save the realm.
  • The Squad: The Dawn Brigade, famous band of warriors that helped ending the last war with Nuhy. Now they assemble again to stop Goaat of the Cursed Forest from collecting all pieces of Nuhy's armour, which could lead to another war in the realms. Garen joins them after he witnesses a former member Gotfried's death and his intel is needed for them to advance.
  • Stealth Expert: Weasel's primary role in the Dawn Brigade, complete with a hood and using daggers as weapons of choice.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Garen tries to defeat his enemies non-lethally, but with varying results. When his actions lead directly to an enemy's death, he has a nightmare the following night.
  • Underestimating Badassery: When Goaat of the Cursed Forest fights the Dawn Brigade personally for the first time, he quickly dismisses Garen as completely harmless. That harmless rabbit managed to land a direct (and very suckerpunchy) hit on him during the very same fight TWICE.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Compared to other characters, Garen is relatively weak due to being a rabbit, but he more than makes up for it with combat skills he learned from Gotfried, a retired badass knight. And then there's his ability to improvise during fights...
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Garen is often praised by Grimbert and Weasel for his contributions to the Dawn Brigade's mission, which he really needs considering his self-doubting and Arthus' constant complaints about everything he does, including simply being on the team.
  • Your Size May Vary: Garen, and it's especially visible when he interacts with Weasel - sometimes he's much shorter than her, sometimes only a head. Though it mostly stabilizes after she reveals she's roughly Garen's age as the second Weasel, and they become attracted to each other.