Friday, August 12, 2016

Battling Boy Presents: The Rise of Aurora West

This is the first volume of the Aurora West Arc, this means that you missed Battling Boy, since we were introduced with the astounding teen and her Father, Haggard West. Yes, this duo of jetpack might and brandishing plasma blasters in this action mystery pulp adventure. If there's anything more that I love it's a good character arc story and pulp fiction, just well written graphic novels. Though don't take my word in this introduction, come join us on this adventure into the favorite in the Battling Boy series written by Paul Pope and JT Petty with Illustrations by David Rubín, so let's dive into this golden pool of mythology and history.

My initial thoughts about the cover for The Rise of Aurora West are conflicted, if I need to use a word. It shows Aurora West with her tonfa, ready for action and from what is implied in the background that action will appear in the novel. This scene doesn't take place in this book, though I have high hopes that it will come around at least in the next novel. Now here's the bias part of this, I really like the way this cover is designed, from the color to the composition of the characters and the title. The font of this is amazing, it's a perfect compliment to the Battling Boy title. There's enough room for the characters to make their actions and reactions and it focuses on the titular character. All in all there's no story other than there's a struggle between her self, a Hooded Figure (which from the source book we know is a monster), and her Father. What will she do in this book, where will her emotions take her through this journey deeper into the Battling Boy History and Mythology? That's what I'm getting within these pages, within this cover, within the first moment of seeing this book I want it to be open and turning pages, reading them as if the fanning will cool me off, but my desire to the curiosity of what the West family means to this world excites me. There doesn't need to be a background since the title needs to pop and the characters are all designed and in full. This isn't the best cover I've seen, but it's still a cover in the series that's my favorite. Let's stop speculating what will be in the tome and let's start thumbing through this tale.

We open with a mild day in the life of Aurora West as her Father walks through the door. Haggard is a tall man, barrel chested, and one for action. He requests the aid of his daughter to help him for the evening after her homework has been finished. Aurora complied and with excitement in her reply suits up and is allowed to drive them to their stakeout. This is a classic thing that a lot of comic artists know, a quick introduction to the main characters and action. The pacing and the events between the first few pages will either capture your reader or have them thumb through another novel. If I were to tell you which one am I, then I'd tell you that they followed a Hooded Figure, his name is Coil. This horrible being is talking with a bunch of short henchmen of a much bigger horror, the deal has been made between these two parties and the West family choose a direction. The Father is training her for the inevitable day that he dies, she'll take on his mantle and become Haggard from this point on. She goes with her gut and the plot progresses on, following the three short monsters to a warehouse. At this moment they don't seem to be doing anything that's to harm anyone, but they are monsters and in this world any monster that's on the surface must be doing something to attack or harm humans in someway. And like any concerned vigilante citizen Haggard and his daughter start attacking these three, that have now turned into more than three since traveling to the warehouse. The upper hand comes up West, though the boss (Medula) comes in with a few Tommy Guns. Blasting the room and collecting her people from the room before Haggard could charge his gun. A shot wings her as they all escape and the West Family are left to their captive, who never makes it out of the interrogation alive. Though the little creature leaves a symbol on the ground a mysterious marking that is their boss's boss. They collect what clues they could find and head back to the house to tend to their wounds.

We're introduced to Ms. Grately, an amazon of a woman, she's either as tall as Haggard or taller than the man. She's the nanny, well the Race Bannon of the family, she's more family than help, but if you need someone that can lift a car cause you don't have a jack this is the person you call. An amazing fighter and a tenacious person, she lost her leg, they don't talk about it, but it's something that stopped her and has become a motivator to overcome this obstacle. Aurora's Father talks for a moment, he's caught up with being "the Hero this City Needs" and less on the Dad that his daughter loves. They go a little back and forth with what happened and we cut into the past for a moment to understand his points on teaching his daughter how to be a Science Hero. I love that about this world that there's no Superheroes they're men and women of Science that protect the world. Anyhow we see that reveal that Aurora has seen the symbol that the monster scribbled on the ground. It seems she wrote it when she was Four, the day that Mr. Wurple went to work, the same day of Attis Day, the same day that her Mother died. With this in the back of the mind of the reader and of our teenage hero we enter the cliche of the series. I said this in Battling Boy that I was glad this series didn't go into High School, since this trope is something that I'm not a fan of though I do find it interesting. It really matters the writer, so I feel in good hands with the folks who are in charge.

Gom and Oona Kulte enjoying some time being the bad guy.
It's fun to live (for a day) as a being that's the opposite to your own life and desires.

That's the good part of this the High School trope its down played, yes Aurora is a teenager, though I'm glad that the plot focuses on the secondary plot and her growth as a kid to an adult. This is important to take into memory, since if you're like me you've read the first book (Battling Boy Volume 01) and know that she's going to have to gown up fast now. Though within this novel she's living as a young adult, that becomes a true teenager and Science Hero. For the time being we see what it's like in the life of a Pulp hero and apprentice, they chat with the commissioner and see what evil the monsters are up to, since they blow the Horn of Urgency (Hunt, hunt, hunt, he's the Huntsman, into action is his cry!). So instead of a large light in the sky to summon Batman, the town rings the tower clock a little fast as a secret announces to Haggard that the police would like to talk. During this conversation they find out that Coil's gang are up to something, something that they don't want Haggard to know about, so they do it by the department alley. Though this is where Aurora's present ends as it's time for bed, it's a school night and all.

Here's where a lot of character development takes place. From before we know that Aurora likes to carve things into walls, mostly her name, since that's what kids do when they're young. I had a stamp of my face, that was the coolest thing my Mom has given me as a child, though that stamp was on everything that allowed me to imprint it. Aurora is similar, though I think it's interesting that a little girl has a knife and it's okay, still it matters the child and the maturity to handle a knife. Through this comic we see Aurora deal with a dichotomy of good behavior and mischievous behavior. I wouldn't say bad, since she never intended harm, nor does her actions hurt others, so it's more of an honest reluctance to follow the rules, but work around them in a way that's beneficial to all parties. So when she was sent home early she wanders to the library and looks through the old books. Having a desperate need to see her Mother and learn why the mystery of her death is so important to her at this time. We flash back eleven years ago, to when Haggard West was really Rex Mason (Adventurer) also part-time Rick O'Connell. This is what I love, in a lot of pulp novels the writers want to dive into the unknown, so they write about China or Egypt, since both topics of the time where a mystery to the world. Honestly in most parts of the world China and Egypt are still mysteries, even to those that live within the country. So again we put our heart in the cards and see what dangers come from this statue of a mythological beast, who might be alive in this world, since monsters are real.

It's the first time we really get to see the Mother, it's the first true moment that we see her and how intelligent she is, the hard part about this is it's either the perception of a 3-4 year old or she's really that fantastic. Given this is a fictional character I'm gonna go with the ladder, since it's the one possibility that makes sense for her to be lost to mankind and her family. A smart person that could either breach the wall between monsters and Man or a person that could find a way to end all of monsterkind. Either way one were to look at the outcome it's a way of life that neither side would want to entertain.

I haven't mentioned this yet within the review that the drawings are astounding, that the figures and emotions are spot on and expressed. I can't get enough of these organic feeling characters and their detailed designs. It felt like at first Paul Pope's work, that he loosened up a bit for this side story and let his metaphorical hair down. Nope, these are the renderings of David Rubin, an illustrator who's work is something I've been idolizing since I thumbed through this book, also in the second novel we'll see a ton more in Fall of the West House.

Anyhow, Aurora got bored and wanted to be a child, so she didn't listen to her parents and pulled a cord that was behind a wall. Its placement and that it opened a stairwell to the bottom of the sphinx statue was a one in a million shot, but here we are, in a strange land with a family of very intelligent people and they're walking head first into an inky room that's been sealed up before their grandparents had grandparents. While searching the tomb of this king or boy or hero they find him, standing there, motionless and mummified, well dried out like jerky. He has across his chest a three pronged talon, they're not sure who he is or what significance that talon has to this person. The flashback ends, the books weren't enough, so she hops over to the holo-library. Yeah! That's awesome a holographic library, three dimensional images and information of things as if they're in that very room. We see that like any child Aurora touches the talon while her parents weren't looking and the birth of Mr. Wurple takes place. A being of shade and shadows appears and tells the little girl not to tell her parents about him. Then we cut back to the present and through a torch the talons produce not a shadow of the tri-pronged weapon, but the mysterious imaginary friend of the young West girl.

Aurora studies and loses track of time till her father comes home. She talks about another subject then the one that she's truly studying, though makes good points in the subject matter. Haggard talks about meditation and trying to piece together what has happened within the day and how all of this information could piece together. Though during his meditation she falls into a trance state herself, thinking about all the clues that can click together. The one interesting piece for me in this abstract surreal dream illustration, it was the image of Sobek (I think, I know a bit about Egyptian mythology, but I'm not an expert). This God is hovering behind the mummified hero, also a griffin, is the griffin Battling Boy? Just did some quick research and it seems that Sobek is associated with Apotropaic magic, meaning that he's a deity of protecting against evil from humans. This could be foreshadowing of future events or it could be a tell that this "hero" from another time was very much like her father and might be why she's so interested in him. Anyhow, Haggard scoops up his daughter in his arms and carries her off to bed, wishing her a restful sleep as he leaves to carry on his work.

The next morning breaks and Haggard cuts into the drowsy haze that attacks our heroine, claims that coffee is a science hero's best friend. There's more conversation, though nothing that's too important, mostly implied story devices and continuing interesting character arcs. We slip further into the High School trope, again not happy about it, but it's moving things along. We get to see further into what it's like for her between aspiring hero and teenager. There's a guy that's been in the high school scenes, I hope they stay friends, since it would be more interesting to see a platonic relationship, also I think he's intimidated by her. They share a thought, that they want monsters out of their world, though more for the social issue and less about the current problem at hand. It makes me wonder, was it Aurora that set the monsters free, it's implying that this is her doing, since she let Mr. Wurple get to work, but it's not clearly stated, mind you it's not their place to state that in the middle of their book, so it makes sense that it's not going to be something that's pressed so soon. That's the second part, the heavy part, this could be the reason her Mother is dead, she killed her Mother by not telling anyone about the imaginary friend she had that could be the reason why monsters are everywhere.

Then a cut to night, where we see our Science Heroes looking for the Hooded Figures (these guys are the worst, love their designs). They're hitting up a facility for children, it seems these kids wanted to try smoking and didn't realize that the curfew was not in place "just because" it was to save their lives. Now they realize the fault in their collective minds and are saved by the two heroes, just barely. Haggard forced Aurora to wait before firing the shot to save the kids, it was something that you never want to test, but the information that each Hooded FIgure had varied with the other. There was a clear shot to kill each one, but their gun (I'm gonna say it's a photon laser, though it looks like it's a weapon that Tesla would make, so that's plasma they're firing) needs time to recharge. It's one of the few things that kill monsters, so Haggard is a huge threat. They save the kids, but are each almost killed, they were shot, but not dead. The bullets used seem to be buckshot, not powerful at long range, so their armored clothing helped a lot.

Tea Steeping is always happy to test another jetpack.
Professor Steeping has never seen so much excitement in a person,
especially someone that's testing something so volatile, in theory, he'd never risk her life.

Cut to the house, since the Hooded Figures got away, though a lot of information was taken, they patch up their wounds. This is what bother's me in a character arc, there's not an account of time, it's all stream, which is good, since you as a person or the character don't really notice time as it's happening. For major moments you might exclaim that it's 9pm, though that's not really important for the plot as a whole. Aurora called over her friend from high school to swing by and hang out, mostly be a lookout for her while she meditate in the other room, but doesn't want Ms. Grately to know about her using the room. Then she takes us into the past, the past that only she knows about and can't remember well. It's interesting that she can remember the past so well, though try thinking about your past, like really think about something you did at 4 years old. At 4 years old I can tell you an hour was a life time and a day was a week. If I remembered anything from that long ago I'd be astonished, though it really matters what has happened on an important day, everything word for word, now that's a lot of information. While in this trance she sees her Mom again and Mr. Wurple, it's interesting, his influence surrounding her it's toxic, since he's teaching her to be purposely sneaky, though she sees it all as a game for the most part. He's leading her and not at the same time, he knows things, but that could be since they share a body currently. In a way he reminds me of Eclipso, in the way that he has no true form and has to take the body of another, but gains all their knowledge and power. Another villain from the Silver age of comics, it was a beautiful time to be alive.

We learn that it was a 4 year old's mispronunciation of Whirl Pool that Mr. Wurple came about. it's a common thing for children to do and it's either encouraged or endeared that they express themselves, also how their logic works is just very interesting. Speak with a 4 year old, play with them, you'll see a mind that has nothing better to do then to think, though through it's limited ability can't do much more then to learn. Back to the present, Haggard is getting Aurora mentally ready with a pep talk as they need to pick up an informant. We find out that there's a drop off for the final piece of the device that the Hooded Figures are collecting, it's unclear where, though that's what makes the ending so exciting, that's what this whole story is building up to is this moment of finding out what it is that they are building and where this battle will end.

Haggard and Aurora fly over the City, she doesn't have a jet pack yet, that's a good thing, more or less, it matters the pack, but it's pretty much as he said, it's a bomb on your back. Through the rest of the pages it's a moment of stop, the pacing and the plot, just stop. That's fine since we get to see the human side of the characters, this brash strong barrel chested square jawed man has a weakness and she's standing beside him. We reflect on this through an old man, a man that had to live his life in desperation and depression to this moment of wanting to leap from a bridge. Never do this, never think that there is nothing more. It's hard to say this third person, but there's always someone or something out there, it's cliche and it's a trope, but from first hand I can tell you that there is a lot more to life. I can't push that idea any further, since I'm a writer and a cartoonist, I can only encourage that there is much more, since I've seen it, but do see someone and talk about everything all the hardships all the pleasures, everything. Again my medical degree for this type of involvement limits me to animate cartoons, so I can help you feel a certain way, stimulate an emotion, but my medical care beyond this blog ends here, it's you that will have to make things better for you. They save this man with talking and jet packs, he jumped and realized that there was more, that even the "great Hero" of the City had limits and was fighting all he could to save them collectively the best he could. It ends on that note as they fight the horrors that fill the evening streets. There's much to do come the morning.

Morning breaks and Aurora flies out the door to her friend to the best place in the world, THE LIBRARY! Yes, it's another cliche that they're looking through the microfilm at the local library, but it does thicken the character of Haggard and tell us that it is a plasma gun. He's always been doing this to save his daughter and everyone's daughter in that City. Moving on we see that the boy does like her, though like most young men at his age, he doesn't know how to express these feelings to her and just keeps helping her with this investigation. They learn that the same day that her Mother's death is the same day that Haggard blew up the tunnel system for the monsters, forcing them to use other means to come to the surface. By looking at a map they see that the Mother's root to the award ceremony would take too long from her house and the alley, though there's a shortcut that might be the true path that her mother took that night. She opens the door of a rooftop shack and sees a being in the darkness.

We cut to the junkyard, a man that speaks loudly about a device that's of great importance to the Hooded Figures and Medula to Mr. West and Ms. Grately. Haggard is already talking to him about the device and how it could help his machine to defeat the monsters that plague the City. Then they are attacked, though at the same time Aurora is conversing with a monster that lives in the shack, he's not like other monsters, since I don't think he's left that room since he was placed there. He knows the symbol of Mr. Wurple and will not tell Aurora his name, since monsters have a connection to their names if spoken. Though he thinks she's a ghost, a phantom of her Mother, he helps her with this realization that whatever happened that night took place in this room and with this Monster and Mr. Wurple. The fight in the junkyard ends, our heroes are out numbered, but they live and one of the henchmen of Medula is trapped in the trunk. He fears no human, though like any boogeyman once revealed a cowardly lot crumbles in his wake. Haggard shows him the horror that is the Science Hero of the City, many words are spilt from that automobile's rear storage.

Aurora is hot tailing it back to the West Manor with the knowledge that she has and tells her Father where the meeting sight will be. Ms. Grately takes her aside and tells her that Haggard West can take a lot of punishment, though emotionally that's his one weakness. The Wests suit up for the raid on the monsters at the Frying Pan Quay, Aurora will be out of the way and covering Haggard from a crane while he'll take them all on himself. This feels like a fool's attack, he's got a death wish, though he's got the experience to take them all on, but I'm not sure his body can handle the fray. The event just as planned went poorly. Within all the action the Hooded Figures have the battery for whatever purpose and Aurora almost dies while on the crane, though we find out that one of the Hooded Figures is Wurple or a follower of Wurple, which leads to a question. In Battling Boy is that Mr. Wurple at the end, the large figure that we can't rightly see, though know is the master mind behind the increasing success of the Hooded FIgures? Within the fight one of the Hooded Figures is still trapped in the car that almost hits Aurora when she dived into the water, she cuts him loose, though it's unknown if that's Mr. Wurple, but he knows her name, which could be public. The sail away, claiming their right to Haggard's death. As everything feels like it's dying down Medula grabs Aurora from the water and threatens her life, saying that it's a life for a life, you've killed my children and I'll kill yours West! These words cut deep into the man and he gives her everything she desires, anything that will allow his daughter to walk away from all of this alive, even at the cost of his own life, since he knows she'll be strong and amazing with or without him, but if she had to choose she'd want him alive too.

Medula wants neither of the West family to live, she prays on his goodwill and takes his weapon and jetpack, NO NOT THE JETPACK! She gives him no choice, but to lay down his own life, he begs her to let Aurora live, since all he's done was for her and her well being, if she dies, then his life was for naught. Lucky for Aurora (and Haggard) she kept her blaster in her jacket and was being held by her neck. Just enough room to blast the dock and chokehold Medula dragging her back to the top of the water. Aurora won't let go of the monster, her Father wants her safe, out of harm's way, back on the land, but she won't let go. Medula wants her freedom too, though the blaster is in Aurora's jacket again, there's no jail for monsters. The Father and Daughter embraces, love for each other, love for their lives, love that they have strengthened their bond and hug after this horrible battle rests around them.

It's true, Mr. Wurple is this Hooded Figure named Coil, the same one that she saved from drowning, she was his Animus. This volume ends with Aurora's decision to kill Coil, her imaginary friend that murdered her Mother (and later Haggard). And with that this ends the first volume of the Aurora Arc, there's so much history from this one volume that really shouldn't be apart of the main Battling Boy story, it should be here in this "spin-off volume". Now I don't want to call it that, since it did more than what a mere spin-off book would do, it didn't just expand a single character or an idea that should be elongated, it brought mythology and depth to a character and character's family that wasn't seen in the source series. Let me talk about one of my favorite characters for a moment, it's Aurora's Father.

Haggard West, this is my favorite character in the Battling Boy series. I know it was originally because of the jetpack, it's a jetpack, but then the character grew on me. The character started to have the tropes that I love, though that's something I didn't realize till half way through this book's second read that he's a throwback to the silver age of comics, he's that pulp hero that's in the modern whacky world we live in (1950-1970). It's a crazy time, but that's just it, he's thriving in this odd world of monsters and undiscovered land or particles or the idea that ghosts could be real, there's a boy that came out of a rift in time and space to save his beloved City, postmortem. If this book doesn't scream Silver Age of comics homage, then I'll do it for you, don't worry inanimate object I've got your back. And with that we see the rise and fall of the silver age, since his character has to take what he's made and turn into a more realistic and gritty version of himself. This happened to Metamorpho a great Silver Age hero, Rex Mason was an Adventurer who stumbled upon amazing powers. He was disfigured in his "updated" rendition, though originally he didn't care, it was just something that happened and all honesty he was more personality than looks to me. A charming man that now has the power to turn into any element that's in the human body. This is similar in the sense that Rex and Haggard went through troubling changes and that in the updated versions of themselves they lost a little bit of who they were and what spirit they had left has vanished, it's a shell of a character. Now a lot of the weird characters are coming back in full spirit, though that's another reason why I love this book, since Haggard is dead in Battling Boy (it's within the first ten pages, not that much of a spoiler) he's not coming back, so it's great to see him in action. Then again it's not him in action at his peak, at his top form, this is when he started to let fame get to him, when Haggard was the identity that he wanted to be, the idea and not the man. Then he saw the love of his life taken from him. A six fingered monster took his heart and he closed up. Again this is a classic trope to make the character more dark, a loved one is dead, mysterious circumstances abound, they lose themselves in their work. This is an amazing homage to those types of characters from the Silver Age that were updated in the later years. It's hard to find people that want to make these homage characters and surround their fiction with these tropes. Though Paul Pope seems to know how these characters function in his world and what he'd like to see from them and have the reader want to see from them.

Overall, I want you to find this book, well read Battling Boy first, though find this book and hold it tight to your heart, it's a graphic novel that will change your mind about pulp fiction and modern writers being able to create fiction that resembles this creative golden period of time. Aurora's Rise is seen relevantly through each page, the pacing of this 150 page book is astounding and well edited to a core of pure beauty. If you're like me you stayed for the drawings, they weren't Paul Pope, though the exaggerated features and organic, fluid designs gave themselves a charm that bloomed in the first book and stormed into this novel erect and mighty. It is a series that I for one had to wait for an undisclosed amount of time before I knew about the second novel and had to wait for this coming week to read. I can never thank the three individuals (Paul Pope, JT Petty and David Rubín) enough for making this book and this series come to life, but I hope you all are reading and talking about this master piece of visual fiction sequential storytelling.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
Support the creator, check out your local library and read more from the Aurora West Arc.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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