By James Bacon: The news we’ve been waiting for… The Return of Fletcher Arrowsmith.
Astro City, Arrowsmith, Autumnlands and new story Free Agent are announced as Kurt Busiek and a host of fabulous artists work with Image Comics.
Exciting news has broken. Image announced that Kurt Busiek is returning and then blew everyone’s minds with the announcement of new stories and for this writer, new Arrowsmith.
“I’m thrilled to be back at Image” said Busiek to the sounds of fans waking up worldwide, whooping and cheering, excited like squirrels in a nut storehouse.
Image has consistently been bringing fans fabulous comics, and we’ve recognized them, Saga, Monstress, Walking Dead, Wayward, Red Star, Paper Girls — and the original series of Astro City started at Image in 1995. There have nearly been 100 comics under the title, and it is collected into seventeen volumes. New stories are welcomed.
Fellow fan Christpher Hwang commented “Astro City is my favorite comic book series of all time – and while I am incredibly excited by its return, I may be even more thrilled that we get to explore more of the world of Arrowsmith, as fans have been waiting to see more since the first series ended in 2004!”
The original six issue series of Arrowsmith by Busiek and stunning artist Carlos Pacheco was released by Cliffhanger in 2003 and immediately captured the imagination and affection of fans. It’s a powerful First World War story, set in a slightly different world, one with magic, mythical creatures, dragons, fire salamanders and fantastical beings, Hibernian Dwarfs, Lotharingian Rock Trolls, and the Central Powers have Bulgarian Vampires and Prussian Werewolves.
Fletcher Arrowsmith is our young protagonist, from the United States of Columbia, who wants to be an airman, a role that requires magic, flying with a Drogonet, and considerable mental and physical agility and we follow him as he escapes a parochial countryside small town to go to Gallia and fight. Busiek uses an epistolary story telling technique, that of letter writing, even letters that are not read or censored, but this allows us to understand the thinking and confusion and hurt that Fletcher endures, and gives us considerably more information than one might get, but it’s so well done. His journey is fraught, while there are moments of joy and friendship there are also horrendous encounters and actions, of truly horrific nature, and loss.
The portrayal of war and its impact is in no way lessened by some whimsicalness, there is a brutal honesty and thoughtfulness that allows the reader to consider the First World War in new light, it’s so beautifully done, but it is not a nice and easy story, it is not a feel good cheer-you-up story, it takes an unexpectedly hard look at the brutality of war, adding magic and fantasy to only make the murderousness of people fighting one another more thought provoking and a compelling alternative history.
The new series, jeepers, 18 years later, entitled Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines, issue one to be released in January, and for those who would like it (me, me me!), there is a fully remastered hardcover of Arrowsmith, Book 1: So Smart in Their Fine Uniforms.
Of the return of Arrowsmith, Busiek said: “Stepping back into this universe at long last, and writing these characters again feels like coming home, and visiting with old friends—admittedly, old friends we do dangerous, stressful things to in the name of adventure. And the art, by Carlos, Rafael, and Jose, is just astounding. Arrowsmith fans have been very patient, but have never been shy about letting us know they want more—and I can’t wait for them to see both the new series and the re-mastered original in the kind of hardcover edition we think it deserves.”
Carlos Pacheco added: “It seems like only yesterday Kurt and I were dreaming of creating a book about WWI and magic. It’s been a long trip since then. We kept hoping to bring the world of Arrowsmith back to life, but the stars didn’t line up properly until now. And maybe the stars didn’t help, but the readers have. I feel like we’ve had an unwritten agreement with all the people who’ve supported Fletcher and Hilda since the day they both took flight, and pushed us to bring them back. We’re very happy to say here they are, after all these years.”
This is a fabulous story, one that I have always picked up when I see it, because it is an amazing gift to pass to fellow fans,
If this wasn’t enough good news, Astro City is also back. The team will be giving us a new urban-fantasy graphic novel, The Gods on Sunday Morning and then a new ongoing series will follow.
Next is Free Agents, a brand new series, and I was super pleased to see that Irish artist Stephen Mooney, whose work I love, is working with Busiek and co-writer Fabian Nicieza, details are thin, but I was chuffed to hear this and Fabian Nicieza said, “Kurt and I have always had fun working together, I’ve been waiting 30 damn years to have an Image book! Free Agents hits all our strengths and sweet spots, and Stephen and Tamra only add to my excitement.”.
“I’m thrilled to be joining such a top-notch team,” added Stephen Mooney. “Kurt and Fabian put together some incredible concepts, and I’m eager to show what Tamra and I can bring to the party. Teaming up with Image again just makes it all the sweeter.”
And the return of Autumnlands from Busiek with Benjamin Dewey and Jordie Bellaire, all planned for late 2022, a host of older stories back in print and well, Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 at local comic book shops on Wednesday, January 19, 2022…. marvelous.
Based on a press release – read the original here.
James noted in Drink Tank his meeting of Carlos at Dublin City Comic Con in Tara Towers, on November 17, 2008, a fab con, organized by John Hendrick:
“Carlos Pacheco who has just finished a run on Superman with Kurt Busiek was using some wonderful markers, and presenting full colour sketches for fans. He was using colour letterset pro markers, these twin tipped markers allow a transparent effect and because they are alcohol-based can be layered to produce deeper colours and with his controlled and skilled hand, images were incredible. He was pleased to mention that the second series of Arrowsmith, was on the cards, (I was incredibly excited!), a story he created with Kurt Busiek, a beautiful First World War take, where magic, mythical creatures and men flying with the aid of Dragonets exist, all to great effect. Anyhow, I think he was well pleased to meet an Arrowsmith fan and I was stunned and still cherish this image he created.”