Battling Boy

17210469Author: Paul Pope
Release Date: October 8, 2013
First Second Books
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Superheroes

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers:
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So, Paul Pope is a pretty awesome guy. You should know that first and foremost. He’s got a really unique and very classic sort of art style that’s pretty arguably old school. The guy has talent and it shows. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize this until I read Battling Boy. I honestly hadn’t heard of the guy before except sort of in passing here and there. I’d seen some of his cover art work and some of the stuff he’d done for some of the more mainstream comic series. But I’d never read anything else he had written. I didn’t know that he’s an Eisner Award winner or that he’s self published a number of titles in addition to working with some pretty major publishers.

After reading Battling Boy, though, you have got to believe I’m going to be looking up some of his other stuff. In particular, THB and Heavy Liquid because they look awesome.  I think after reading through Battling Boy you’ll want to check them out, too.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit about Battling Boy.

For the most part, liked the art style. It’s old school. There’s not a whole lot of the sort of polish you see in a lot of mainstream comics these days. It’s a raw, real sort of pencil and pen look that doesn’t need all the brushing up and smoothed out edges. It’s rough and sometimes gritty. I like that. I will say, though, that some of the designs were a bit weird and certain characters just did not appeal to me at all. I was not a fan of the design for Battling Boy’s father. He just looked weird and half the time I felt like his character design had been ripped from that superhero guy with the blonde hair from  some Ren and Stimpy episode I vaguely remember.

But looking past those occasional issues with the character designs, I do admit that I really liked the story. I thought that leading with the final battle of Haggard West – a sort of Batman or Blue Beetle style character with a daughter looking to follow in his footsteps – was a great introduction to the book and the setting. I liked haggard west or what we saw of him and I think that his daughter, Aurora,will turn out to be a really be a good character in later volumes. Unfortunately she didn’t really feature as prominently as I would have liked in this one and what we saw of her just made me feel a bit sorry for her. Though, towards the end of this volume she really started to come into her own.

Our Battling Boy is really going to need someone like her as he goes along. I actually really liked his origin story and the fact that he’s just sort of thrown into things. He’s just a demigod child thrown int our world as a sort of proving ground for his own worth and valor. Using Earth as it appears in comic books for that sort of purpose is actually a really good idea. We always seem to be plagued with monsters and villains we can’t deal with ourselves and what better place to send a growing twelve year old demigod to train? It’s a good idea and a good concept. It did, howver, take a long time to really get to that concept and after 208 pages we’re left with a lot of questions. We get a nice introduction to the story, I guess, in this volume but very little substance. Still, the character development and implications of the final battle in this volume do leave you wanting more and wondering what comes next.

Which is probably Sadisto doing more crazy things at the beck and call of his sinister master. I liked Sadisto as a villain though his motives are a bit out there and he has a bit of a Candlejack vibe to him. It was kind of cool to see him starting to rally the other baddies against Battling Boy after Haggard West’s death. I do want to see a bit more development fr those cahracters, though. I mean, they never really explain why most of them are weird looking and why this one guy was literally a dog. Or where all the monsters and stuff come from. So, there’s a lot that remains to be explained.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good read. I think that Battling Boy is a pretty cool character and, as I said before, I think Aurora and him are going to really turn out to be quite the team once they get past what are going to be some pretty obvious issues when they first start teaming up. I think that the story itself is compelling and that there’s a lot about this world that remains to be discovered and explained. I’m certainly up down for the ride.

If you want to know more about Paul Pope and Battling Boy, I recommend this Entertainment Weekly article. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome and very extensive.

Final Thoughts:
Paul Pope introduces a new hero for the masses in Battling Boy. This isn’t your brooding Batman or your boyscout Superman. Battling Boy is just a fairly normal twelve year old demigod with little guidance desperately trying to prove his worth to his family and to his people by making a name for himself in our world. The concept behind the story is great and there’s a lot of potential for the series to grow and expand. This first volume promises a lot of great things to come.


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