by Paul Pope
There are some cartoonists who release new work so rarely that it is a real cause for celebration when they drop a new book on the world. Chief among these creators is Paul Pope, whose new graphic novel Battling Boy has been anticipated for years.
I was a little surprised to see the approach that Pope took for this book. It's been designed to appeal to just about all ages, as Pope gives us a coming-of-age story for a young god who arrives on Earth to fight monsters.
The book opens with the story shown in the Death of Haggard West one-shot a couple of months ago. The end of that comic, which has West, the science-hero of Arcopolis, die in battle, is interwoven with new material, as we are introduced to the young Boy, who lives in a mystical city kind of like Asgard. As part of his adolescence, the Boy is sent to Earth to prove himself. His father is one of the greatest heroes of his people, but he can't help the kid much.
To aid him in his quest, the Boy has been given a collection of special t-shirts which allow him to tap into the abilities of the creatures depicted on them. This is marketing genius, if this book were to ever be adapted for TV or film. The kid shows up just as a gigantic monster is wrecking havoc on the Boy's new home, and even though he gets some assistance from his father in putting the creature down, he comes out of the skirmish as a hero.
I love Pope's art, which is always exciting and a little rough, but I also think he's come a long way as a writer. His Battling Boy is unsure of himself, and a little intimidated by what is expected of him. Haggard West's daughter is another major character, and she is an interesting study in determination and drive.
My only real complaint about this book is that it doesn't exactly resolve the story, and feels more like the first volume of a series that is going to be incredibly sporadic in coming out. If this book was delayed for years, I shudder to think of how long it might take to see a new story. Still, I'll be first in line to buy it, because this was a great read.