Current Reviews


Arrowsmith #4

Posted: Sunday, November 9, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: Cliffhanger Comics

In the aftermath of his first real combat where he saw his best friend killed in a rather shocking manner, we see Arrowsmith begins to shut himself off from all human contact, as while his fellow soldiers are busy enjoying themselves, Arrowsmith has locked himself away in his room. However a conversation with his commanding officer gets him back out interacting with the world, but when Arrowsmith is on hand to witness the effects of an evil gas attack, what little happiness he managed to find is quickly dampened by this display of outright savagery by the enemy.

I do have to ask what is the point of introducing a character who acts as the best friend of our lead character, and then killing off this said character is a rather shocking manner if you only plan of making a passing acknowledgement of the grief this death would inflict upon out hero. I mean the book opens with Arrowsmith crafting a letter home where he looks to have real trouble dealing with his friend's death, and a bit later in the issue we learn he's been keeping himself apart from the rest of his fellow soldiers out of a sense of guilt, but we never really get the sense that he's lost his best friend. Now I'm not looking for page upon page of out lead character being torn apart by emotional angst, but it does seem like the loss of his best friend should've made a bigger impact, especially since the death occurred in such a horrific manner. Still, the issue does manage to deliver a fairly powerful scene where Arrowsmith is on hand to witness the nightmarish effects of an enemy's gas attack, though the assurances at the tail end of this scene that the Allies would never resort to such a awful method of attack would seem to be contradicted by the final page reveal of an equally horrific attack that is being tested in a truly disgusting manner. The issue also does some nice work reinserting the book's supporting cast back into place, as Arrowsmith visits Grace, and discovers another person from his home town came over to fight the good fight.

As for the art, Carlos Pacheco turns in yet another impressive effort, as the opening double-page spread does a perfect job of conveying the devastation that a war can visit upon the land, and turn the countryside into a decidedly hellish environment. The opening battle where Arrowsmith proves he won't crack under pressure was also nicely handled, as the art shows a fine understanding of the idea that these characters are flying through the air, freed from the confines of gravity. There's also a nice series of panels that convey the passage of time as we see Arrowsmith gradually adjusts to the idea of sleeping through the noisy party that takes place downstairs every night. There's also a rather interesting scene playing out in the background when Arrowsmith visits Mitch in the hospital, as we see an angel pays a visit to a sheet covered body, and looks to guide its soul to Heaven.

Final Word:
While I felt this issue didn't do enough to convey the impact of seeing one's best friend killed in a decidedly violent manner, and this failure to truly acknowledge this loss made our hero out to be a rather cold, impersonal character, this feeling was somewhat undone by his reaction to the scene where he bears witness to a gas attack that the enemy employs on the ground troops below them. The issue also does some pretty solid work continuing to develop the growing relationship between Arrowsmith and Grace, as from the enthusiastic way the two greet each other, it's clear that they are more than just good friends. There's also a cute little moment before they meet as we see Arrowsmith is questioning the gift that he's picked up for her. The scene where Arrowsmith visits the bedside of his one time rival was also well done, though it would be more effective if I hadn't already seen this scene play out in every other war movie I've ever seen. In fact if a war movie stops in on the hospital ward you're pretty much guaranteed a scene like this.

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