Thursday, August 4, 2016

Battling Boy

One thing that hasn't been seen in a lot of modern pulp fiction is a coming of age story. The number one story would be Tom Strong, next would be Tarzan, though the distance between the two is a great split, but like most pulp tales they go between extremes. They're a baby then a man, none of the trails and tribulations between these two points. Spin-offs do show more, but nothing that's official that feature a teen hero battling the world and taking on the challenges that a young adult would encounter that's not in a High School setting. This is something that comes straight out of nowhere, I haven't read a series that focuses on a teenager as an explorer, an adventurer on an alien world, that doesn't slap them into a school environment. It's refreshing and interesting to see where this could lead. This is my introduction to Paul Pope, I kid you not, this is the comic that introduces me to the artist and the talent. Well, my very first interaction was with a nameless artist that showcased his skill and ability for covers and such, though this is the only way I knew it was the same person. The line work and character features and the detailed backgrounds I knew it was the same person, though I wasn't convinced that the book would have a plot I would find interesting. Something about the cover and title didn't hook me, it wasn't pronounced enough (or full of robots). Though as people talk and slip a few pages here and there about the book and what came from the plot, I started to find curiosity. I'm a fan of high fantasy and magic, so no robots, but there's science and magic in this book about a pulp hero from another world, please do go on. And let's go on and dive into this specific piece of fiction, as we dig into the crust of what's to come in the further adventures of Battling Boy by Paul Pope.

The initial cover response isn't much, it's not really that interesting of a beginning, I can tell you when this first came out I wasn't interested in it at all. It didn't have much character, it felt like a generic action comic. It took about 2 years for me to break down and read it, though I'm glad I moved past the cover. Though that was my problem it felt like those types of comics that have this ultimate message that tells the kids reading the comic that it's not really the hero that makes the man, it's the award that they're aiming to receive. Delightfully I was wrong, really it comes off like that within the first 20 pages, then somewhere in-between it throws me for a fool and comes out with an amazing and original idea that's not only entertaining, but also something that moves over genres. It's not a superhero comic, it's not a coming of age story, no it's something else, something that's much deeper than what's on the cover.

Anyhow, based on the cover alone, it's not great, it's one of those books that you read and loan to a friend, it doesn't look like much and it doesn't have good composition. The font on the other hand is really great. It holds that energy that's within the pages and brings out the interesting character. The title I'm not going to fight anyone on, isn't great, but it's a tool to get the story moving and it sounds like a kid came up with it, so it works. The bat creature that I'm assuming Battling Boy is standing on isn't that interesting, again it's not something that I would instantly pick up, though the style of drawing and the inking I love instantly, but it's the vague cover of the maroon background that doesn't have me ripping this off the shelf. Classic graphic design says this is a sellable cover since its red and the main character pops with his white attire and foreboding monster below him. There's no implied story, so the implication from the cover is to drop into the thick of things and stop complaining about the simplicity of the cover. I wanted to find out what this blonde haired hero was up to, so I thumbed through the book. I guess you could say that the cover was bland enough that I wanted to know more about the hero, why was he battling, who was he battling, and what made this book so interesting in my subconscious.

The opening of the book brings to life one of my favorite things in the world JETPACKS, yeah a fella that's flying around with an engine on his back saving children from being eaten. Hooded Figures run around taking children off the street, parents can't help, it's interesting that people are powerless against these monsters. Though then why would the world need a hero that can defeat them? Anyhow his name is Haggard and he's a man of action. Man of Mystery, though he had to come out for one reason or another about who he was and what he did, then he's shot out of the sky and explodes into fire, WHY!?! Haggard was a really neat and interesting character and his daughter had to watch him be killed in the middle of the sky… so I really don't like the Hooded Figures, that's stupendous visual story telling, though I'm gonna pout (till the next book The Rise of Aurora West which is a prequel).

Haggard's death spins the City into a downward spiral, Monsters are feeling more bold and attacking the communities all across the City. It's hard to see if there's a clear light at the end of the tunnel. So the story flips to another world, there's a similar scene, though it's all character development and it really halts all movement of the story, it's again good visual character writing, but it's something that took the momentum of Haggard's adventure and drops it dead… WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE! Sorry, I'm still not over that and so we move on to a family getting their son ready for a trial of strength and intelligence, it's kinda like the labors of Hercules, though less as a stalling device (to try and murder his son) and more of a coming into Adulthood. Also they're all God like beings here, Norse Gods, since they're mortal, though powerful enough that they're seen and perceive themselves as such. The Father and Son leave with the blessing of the Mother, their exit is through a rift in time and space.

Then unnoticed by the civilians below a rift in time and space displaces its self, sparking lightning and crashing thunder upon the peak of the mountain thT rests at the edge of the City. Two figures drop out of the anomaly and rest at the top. It's Battling Boy and his Father, the two beings from another world speak to each other. It's interesting that it feels like a Father talking to his son about summer camp "It's just for a few months then you'll be back home" is how it's like though with 1600 British. With their conversation done and their agreement that the City needs a being that can do right and flip the odds into the favor of those who's intent isn't harm. It's an interesting conversation (outside of the comic) what's a person's life intent (what is best it in life, Conan). Survival, reproduction, maybe violence, or becoming a guardian? That's what I've always wondered, are we here for a reason beyond what we've made or are we like all animals and just grazing differently than the rest. Anyhow back to the story, Battling Boy reluctantly takes up the job and heads to the City, his Father echoing his emotions on the boy's actions and faith that he will come back a man or a warrior, growth will take hold of him and a being of strength will take hold of this youngling.

Gom and Tea celebrating that Paul Pope's rumors of the next volume are officially happening, though the process is slow and will be out, soon, no date, but will come out. Oona Kulte and Professor Steeping encouraging their joy.

The City seems to be larger than the boy saw from the mountain top, though this is a common first thought with all Cities, New York City used to be a tower of tall buildings, always watching, and peering over my shoulder. Though now it is nothing more than stone and shadows, all gliding between each other as a daily exercise for blazing their route to their labors. This is reflected well, the overwhelming feeling that a new City has on a young soul, the alien world that feels like it should be home, but has so many things that make it an adjustment till more comfortable. I have to comment on the writing and the art, it's beautiful, I can't get enough of it. Everything from the old way of speech to the overly detailed panels, it's just a pleasure to see someone that's able to take time on a piece and still make the page flow well with each other.

After seeing the City is in ruins, at the moment there's a battle up the road that hasn't been won yet, Battling Boy takes a look in his kit that his Father has spirited to him. Inside there's much that one would need to live comfortably, also there's powerful fabric that's inside. Twelve shirts that each have a different animal marked on the chest of the white shirt. It reminds me of D&D, though more so it reminds me of Bilbo and the impenetrable (or unpeirceable) shirt of mail. Though each piece of cloth has its own abilities that are beyond just avoiding the piercing of a cold dagger. He dons the shirt that he feels is the best to take on the monster that's attacking the City.

Battling Boy engages the local battalion and tells them that he's there to do good and help them on their battle against the monster, though they regard him as another lost child. He decides that actions will talk louder than his appearance, he speaks with the monster chewing on a taxi. Their conversation is short, then they attack each other, their wits clashing as well as their fists (well in this case claws and feet). The Boy realizes that this monster is too great for him to handle and calls his Dad, who then becomes too frustrated in the battle of his own and defeats the beast from another dimension, with a strike of lightning. This is seen as the Boy's doing and the City reacts to the young lad's heroism, since he also knocked out the teeth of the monster before calling his Pop.

News gets to Miss West (Haggard's Daughter and only child), it doesn't come with pleasure that there is a new hero in the City, though with the death of her father at the wake of this news I wouldn't expect it to be welcomed. The news of this 12 year old boy gets around the City, as we dive deeper into the mythology and rules that develop as the plot follows suit. The creeps (Hooded Figures) at the beginning of the story return and are rallying the other monsters for an attack on this new meat. Their mind set is they just snuffed out the only force that's been able to stop them and now there's a new name curling around the shadows of a being, a threat to their society. Though this mind set is shared by the City, the nobles of the people, the mayor, and such all crowd and fuss around Battling Boy and this displeases him. He makes a statement, like with the monster, actions speak stronger than these snake tongued delegates. The mayor takes him outside for a moment, still on the grounds, by the heavy machine gun, but onto the steps to his office to talk about the past. How things were and what the boy means to him and the City as a whole, in short he means hope, he means more than any rare metal in the world, because he can stop what they can't. Life in priceless and this strange Boy without a name has brought them hope that life will stay that way and death will become a forgotten thought instead of it being right in front.

With this the Boy agrees to be the City's hero and discovers that the beast was nothing compared to the monsters deeper under the City. The amount of monsters are too much, on paper, though with the "Monster Manual" that was given to him on this trip this might make things easier than the locals are making it seem. Also the Mayor wants to throw a parade to make it known that Battling Boy is here and will be the newest protector of the City. And plans are moving in motion, with that above ground, let's move south, well lower into the Earth. A subterranean location for monsters that have humanoid appearance and some that can fit into locations that human's create for themselves, a domain of pleasure, which has been converted into a bar. The words of the Hooded Figure (that killed Haggard) settles on ears within the room, summed up the Hooded Figures want him dead, and his chainsaw convinces those that don't want to listen, while the rest of the gang work through the problem that the robs conceal with the Spiders.

Battling Boy knows nothing of the war that's coming to him, from below creeping in full force of the monsters he hunts. Though with his leave of the mayor's office and seclusion in his apartment he reviews his supplies. Looking through all his shirts and the animals attached to each mystified cloth. With the down time the Boy takes it upon himself to converse with the animals that are represented in his shirts. A few things are revealed to the boy, some of them are inferred by the reader, though there's plenty that is implied.

The next day the parade starts, they change his name to something that's not as flattering, it's a cliche gag, I love it, since it's really funny to me and pokes fun at the titular character's self-proclaimed name. Then the Monsters attack, stabbing a bullet through the former savior's balloon and attacking the City during the day time. The attack was mayhem, it was targeting the Boy, though the attack was large and full scale. The thing that made this more haunting was the amount of damage that was done, also that the mayor is either dead and the man at the end is a copy or that it was implied to make the scene more exciting. It's really a great ending, since this is how a modern pulp story is written, no one wins and no one loses, though with this it's more lose than win. The book ends with the appearance of an evil that we can only see a bit of, his implied body is much larger than the other monsters that are under his command. Also the thought of the children being in farms, I'm assuming dream farms since this is within folk lore that a boogyman will come and take your dreams, but also that's why they'd want to steal children. The ending is a bit of a bummer, since its completion was in 2013 and it's 2016, three years and there's only been side plot, though beautifully made side plot, that I'll be getting to soon, but still side plot nonetheless, nothing about the main characters that are directly involved with the plot currently ramped up. Yes, Aurora is someone that is involved with the onslaught, but still it's not about the transpired events it's focused on what happened before this book. I'm still waiting for the next volume with coiled anticipation, though it's looking more and more like something that will appear in the far future.

Overall this was a turn around book for me, one of those stories that I pushed myself to get through, then immediately loved the book and the series. It doesn't happen often, since it's usually in the other direction. I'll see something that's amazing in a small part and want to enjoy the feature as a whole, though become disappointed. I'm glad to find that there's media that don't spill out too much from its interior, but has a well created artistic design and skilled visual story teller. What I'm getting at is even with it's bland cover and uninteresting title I was amazingly surprised and satisfied by the spectacular job of Paul Pope. If you're like me then you'll enjoy the emotional trials that the Boy has to over come, the sub-plot of the monsters trying to take over the City, and the mythology of this World of Science and the Rift world between time and space. This is a series that's worth getting invested in, though you'll need the patients of a God for the next book to come out. Though it's worth the wait, Paul Pope is a master at his trade and a skilled individual when it comes to telling a story wroth its weight in platinum or rhodium (the most expensive metals). I can't say this anymore, go out and get this book.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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