Arcadian Knights is a brutal ride through hell and back. Take a hint of Inglorious Basterds and cradle it nicely next to a cult classic monster gymbag stuffed with a smidge of antihero. Then, there is the makings of a graphically interesting vision to go along with the battle between good and evil with a hell of a lot of grays splashed about. The art is done in a traditional black and white format.
In this first volume, the journey begins with Eric Campbell, the comic’s “hero”, who is a soldier on a mission of vengeance because his brother was killed at Pearl Harbor. He’s a man driven by goals and will, including the intent to return back to his most beloved Mae who waits optimistically thousands of miles away. Eric is part of a spec ops mission that hopes to give the larger force massing on the beach of Normandy aid in the coming conflict. Unknown to poor Eric Campbell, writer Garrett Free has another destiny in mind for him. A destiny that begins to truly blossom entering into issue two.
Together, artist Milan Andjelkovic and Free introduce a man filled with uncertainties and hopelessness onto a supernatural battlefield. Free uses issue two to focus on Campbell’s loss and develop the inner struggle that Campbell will continue to face as he continues on his path.
The story effortlessly leaves readers at a big cliffhanger, and the next issue brings them right back in. It plunges straight into the action as Campbell continues to explore his wreckage of an existence, and the literal demons that drag him down the road of the bizarre and the damned. The issue’s perspective alternates between the two lovers and occasionally highlighting Mae’s coping as well as the variation of time between one reality and the next.
Issue four continues to do more of the same. The first four issues build up to the big climax of the series as Eric takes on his first hunt as an Arcadian Knight. Free keeps the story a human story above all else, keeping true to Eric’s heroic nature and making his role in hell a dynamic one. At the same time, he explores Mae’s life without her husband along with her past, her ambitions, and how they all work in the living world while Campbell is still barely grasping with his new fate among the dead.
Despite all these good points, some of the content in the first few issues could have been tighter. Some elements could have been cut short, but would Free still reach his goal of relating to the loss and life of a family during a time of war? He could have filled that time with more foreshadowing about the big antagonist at the end of the first four books. He could have spent time on Campbell wandering around Germany before his plunge into the depths of things. However, the real villain is a constant thorn in the hero’s side and will continue to haunt him in his new existence. There is nothing wrong with a story that takes a cult classic concept and molds it into something personal, something visually appealing, and will hopefully continue to do so.