Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Artesia

"Walking the Line"
Artesia #1 (January 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: Two forces prepare to meet on the field of battle. The captain of on one company, Artesia, offers up a prayer: "Yhera, Queen of Heaven! Yhera Anath, Queen of War! Strike off the chains of the Gorgonae! Loose the Three Sisters of Battle!"

She continues her prayer and her soldiers add their voices to hers. Then, the battle is joined.

When it's over, Artesia's side is victorious. The carrion crows come to feed and Artesia senses the coming of the guides of the dead. At her request, they show her the spirit world.

Fear cuts through her religious ecstasy when she sees Geniche, Queen on the Underworld. The goddess assures Artesia it is not her she came for and kisses her on the lips. She returns to the mundane world still trembling from the touch of the divine. Used to this sort of thing, Artesia's men, go about their business: Ferris plans to go to the nearby temple of Hathnalla to ask her cult sisters for aid; the men plan to give the honored dead over into their care and make camp near the temple.

King Alexus, leader of the opposing army, sees the spirtiwalkers glow around Artesia and knows why he lost the battle--and why his cousin Bran didn't even bother to show up for the battle. Artesia replies he's hiding in shame, since he let his concubine lead his army into battle. Alexus gets to the point and asks Artesia to join him.

Either or both. He also offers a place for her company. Artesia declines. Her lieutenant notes that Alexus seems in good spirits for a man about to loose a third of his lands and just saw his champion beheaded. He knows something. "It matters little; the die is cast," Artesia replies. She's in a hurry to get home before the Coming of Blessed Night.

Home is Dara-Dess, a Highland citadel held by King Branimir of Huelt. Artesia is not only his captain, but his concubine--and his priestess. In Yhera's shrine she offers up the head of the vanquished champion as sacrifice.

In the next hall, she presents the banner of the enemy and the most prestigous hostages to her king. Bran is pleased; he wishes her company to feast and celebrate at the citadel. Artesia demures, citing her need to secure the field of battle and press on. She has one more stop before she goes:

Her concubine-sisters can't understand why she has chosen the ways of war. Lysa the oldest of them, says Artesia has turned from the true of arts of women and of civilization and clad yourself in iron. Artesia counters that she will have them all. Lysa also has a prophecy to give:

The other concubines are afraid. Artesia says they should come with her, but Lysa replies they cannot. Artesia leaves with a sense of foreboding.

And well she should. Her king conspires with witchhunters.

They are mistaken, though, that Artesia didn't sense their presence.

Things to Notice:
  • Artesia's armor is much more "fantasy female" than it will be in later issues.
Smylie starts his story in media res and pretty much expects you to follow along. He lets context and iconography allow the reader to figure out enough about the deities he names by analogy to real world ones to be able to keep going. Here's a resource, though, to help sort them out.


Chris C. said...

That looks pretty cool. I didn't know this one; I'll have to pick it up.

Unknown said...

Good stuff that. Heavy Metal missed out on this artist! I keep waiting for him to finish the series... still waiting. He's an old gamer as well. He played lots of Runequest.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Excellent choice.

I know of this one through the RPG and have been wanting to read it for time.

Looking forward to reading what you have to say.

James Mishler said...

The RPG and the first three compilations of the comic book, plus a FREE copy of the first issue (reviewed here) and a bunch of other freebies associated with the setting, are available in PDF...

Should note, if it wasn't obvious from the review, Artesia is a very "mature audiences" kind of book. If you don't like nekkid folks or depictions of sex, don't look!