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An epic Low Fantasy graphic novel written and illustrated by Mark Smylie, published by Archaia Studios Press. The main character is the titular Artesia of Dara Dess, a warrior-queen, witch, spirit-walker and former concubine. The series details her campaigns in support of the larger Middle Kingdoms against the opposing Thessid-Golan Empire, a war long in coming due to a religious schism between the Kingdoms and the Empire.
The original 6 issue mini-series lasted from January to June, 1999. Several mini-series have followed over the years. Particularly notable due to very mature subject matter, a lack of many common Fantasy tropes, and the Technology Level is approximately that of 15th-Century Europe. The art is fully painted - no computer coloring here.
Has spawned a Tabletop RPG called Artesia: Adventures in the Known World. It runs on the Fuzion system, and is highly complex and detailed, making for a very rich and involved gaming experience.
Artesia includes the following tropes:
- Aerith and Bob: Artesia's brothers are named Justin and Stepjan. There are characters named Wallis, Owen, and Colin, along with Daemander, Argante, and Branimir.
- Amazonian Beauty: Pretty much any of the women who fight under Artesia's banner. Umasza, Samaia, Sava, Ferris, and of course Artesia herself. They are tall, muscular, attractive - and excellent combatants.
- Author Appeal: Smylie must really like group sex. Not orgies, but straight gang bangs.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: This is how many people gain noble titles and lands, particularly in the Highlands of Daradja.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Artesia declaring herself Queen of Dara Dess, after repeated urgings from her captains.
- Badass: Many. Artesia herself, Uros ("the best swordsman in Daradja"), and Sava (still head of Artesia's household after losing an arm) are at the top of the list.
- Blind Seer: The Oracle Queens of Khael are ritually blinded to gain oracular powers.
- Breast Plate: In the first few issues, Artesia wore full armor on her upper body - and nothing between her tassets and greaves, showing off a lot of leg as well as leather "panties." After the Art Evolution, this is averted. Artesia buys armor for her legs. She and other female soldiers have angular projections formed into their curaisses that obviously represent breasts - but otherwise female warriors wear more or less the same armor as their male counterparts.
- The Cavalry: Quite literally, when Queen Myrina's Thulamite horse archers sweep the Imperial mounted archers to save Artesia's Blackheart foot company in a minor skirmish.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: In Artesia Afield, the Palatian mercenary captain Daemander gives a camp follower the business in the same tent as several of his lieutenants discussing their employer - Artesia herself. It's the second kind, since the lieutenants obviously find nothing strange about Daemander's actions and don't even take any notice. He only stops pounding the girl when he detects Artesia and her two bodyguards in the tent using an invisibility spell.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Divine King, worshipped in the Middle Kingdoms.
- Dark Action Girl: Artesia herself is one - she commits many morally questionable acts throughout the series and certainly doesn't shrink from violence. The entire Priesthood of Hathhalla also qualifies, being female cultists of a lion-headed war goddess.
- Deadly Decadent Court: All of the royal courts in the Known World are this.
- Everyone Is Bi: At least all the female characters seem to be. The males, on the other hand, are never shown to have any interest in each other sexually, but have no problem teaming up (even if they've never met before) to give a woman a good time.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Just enough that it's well-done, and some cultures in the Known World have no clear real-world inspiration. Those that do include the Panaghian Sea Kings (Vikings), the Kessite Khans (Mongols), Palatians and others in that part of the world (Italian and Greek city-states), and of course Daradjan Highlanders (the Scottish).
- Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. Since the Technology Level is approximately that of late 15th-Century Europe, bombards are used as siege weapons. As of Artesia Afire they have only been mentioned, not shown.
- Heel Race Turn: Each faction in the setting has had previous alliances and works with whoever its current ruler thinks best serves the faction's interest.
- Improbable Age: Samaia, Urech the Usurper, among others.
- Klingon Promotion: Common in the Highlands of Daradja - Artesia gains her crown this way. Also see Asskicking Equals Authority, above.
- Knights Templar: The Templars of Agall. The Dumeghal are the more Obviously Evil version.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: The men of the Middle Kingdoms are disturbed and horrified by the female warriors coming down from Daradja. They believe women belong in the home, not the battlefield.
- Obviously Evil: Ceryx. He's perpetually dark - not dark-skinned, but actually carries darkness with him. He has sharp teeth, red eyes, chains hanging off his body, and bloody footprints.
- Only Six Faces: It's more like two - one for men and one for women. Mark Smylie paints almost everything with great detail - human faces being the exception. There are certain variations, like slightly wider noses, wrinkles and scars. The only way to really tell the characters apart is hair and facial hair. With the Ensemble Cast, it sometimes makes things confusing. The old Artesia website used to have a Character Sheet, but the new one does not.
- Really Gets Around: Artesia has sex with no less than nine different men on-panel, several of them simultaneously. Nobody seems surprised by this, at least in the Highlands where it's accepted. In the Middle Kingdoms, where the sexually-repressed Divine King religion holds sway, not so much.
- Warrior Monk: Priestesses of Hathhalla. See Dark Action Girl, above.
- The Wild Hunt