By Paul Pope
First Second, 2013
Ages: 12 – 112
Paul Pope is one of the rawk stars of the comic book world. One of his first works, THB, blended a manga pace with a continental flair, and since then he’s definitely honed this aesthetic and narrative style. What really excites me about Battling Boy, besides being a complete Paul Pope vehicle published in quite a while, is the unabashed youthful quality of the book. While many of Pope’s other titles deal with sometimes pretty adult themes (I’m thinking of you 100% and Heavy Liquid), Battling Boy immediately announces itself as a story for kids, but still enjoyable for readers who enjoy a loose expressive and fast-paced style twined with an adventure / coming -of-age narrative. And for those of us a little older it’s also a lot of fun to just look through the book and be reminded of all those awesome 70s record album-covers!
Battling Boy is actually a young god, or perhaps a demigod, who on his thirteenth birthday is dropped off on an earth that is similar to ours yet beset by monsters. As Battling Boy’s dad puts it, “…grim for now a plague of monstrosities pours down upon her [Arcopolis], battering her buttresses under abusive burden” (a lot of alliteration there, and perhaps a little over-wrought, but I also recall being aware of the differences in vernacular between adults in my life and myself. Plus his dad looks even more heavy-metal than Thor). Like many current YA dystopian narratives, Battling Boy begins with the death of a hero, and while this early tragedy is perhaps a little easy, it does set the tone so that we understand that at least some of the monsters, despite looking a little silly, mean business. As well, it provides a plausible narrative for the next hero, Aurora Haggard. Anyway, our young hero is given several t-shirts each with a different beast upon it (an orangutan, t-rex, fox, etc.) which imparts a particular strength; yet when BB first encounters a large car-devouring monster he is tossed around like a doll and must surreptitiously call upon his father for help. From here, the narrative takes off and nicely sets up future volumes. There’s a lot to discover in Battling Boy and it bears multiple reading. It’s a great book, and I highly recommend giving it a read or adding it to your collection.