Paul Pope has done some awesome comics. Some of my favorite comics of all time actually. From his beginnings of Sin Titulo to the magic of THB, his mainstream work with an issue of the long lamented Spider-Man’s Tangled Web to his amazing Batman: Year 100 I was riding along. I was fortunate along that ride to have met him and spent time with not just as a fan but as an acquaintance and colleague so while we joke about it all the time, we go way back. It was things like his issue of SOLO and the 2007 PulpHope collection that cemented as a lifelong fan.
In 2012 though I saw a side of him I never realized existed. His work has always been dark, maybe even depressing and definitely adult. That year though he actually contributed a charming tale to the Adventure Time comic from BOOM! Kids which showed me he had heartwarming sensibilities that were still decisively Paul Pope.
Now with the upcoming BATTLING BOY (October 9th, 2013 with a a premiere release days later at New York Comic Con) he has shown me what charming, all ages work from Paul Pope can truly be with original characters, fisticuffs, fantasy, magic, and even sexiness in an accessible way while keeping that trademark style of heavy black inks, intricately detailed designs and just over the top weirdness.
BATTLING BOY seems to be telling two stories in one, but truly it is just one large story about that coming of age which can occur at various ages and for a variety of reasons.
Before we even meet the eponymous character at around what would be around the 10th page of issue 2 if this was released as a comic instead of a GN we meet a ton of characters, but most importantly a girl who soon has to grow up faster than she ever planned to in the most tragic of circumstances. One who feels she is both more than ready and who will never be ready for the challenges about to come her way. The city/world that BATTLING BOY exists in is fraught with danger, monsters, creatures, and even cosmic gods. Aurora West and her travails and tribulations are as important here as the ones we soon meet with the young Battling Boy. This lead character is from a lineage of warriors who force their young men to start adulthood early and possibly too early, but this is their way and it always has been. I almost feel like despite the very appropriate material for ages 10 & up that Paul is putting a little commentary in here. He could just of been influenced by some of the the greatest science fiction and fantasy novels of all time, but those themselves were social commentary.
What is so wonderful about BATTLING BOY is that as Paul intercedes this two young lives together with believability and a proper pacing, he also gives us insight into the everything surrounding them. We get an understanding of the government, the situations that the soldiers must deal with in a city under constant monster bombardment and we even peek into the minds and social lives of the evil ugly baddies at their secret shared watering hole.
On top of all that is the battle scenes. These are some of the best battle scenes ever. It helps that Battling Boy has a cool power associated with character shirts. It’s some really more hinted at in this first volume but knowing Paul it’ll really come to a head in the second. Luckily, based on my last conversation with Paul (at a watering hole actually) he’s deep into that second volume with even longer, better, crazier battles and I’m sure more of that great character and story.
BATTLING BOY is a hit out of the ballpark, grab it on October 9th at your local comic or book store (softcover $15.99/hardcover $24.99_ or if you’ll be at New York Comic Con grab it from First Second and since you’re in town head out to Society of Illustrators on October 11th for a special Paul Pope/Battling Boy event. Check out their site for more information and if you head to the Battling Boy book site you can also order the book there and see a preview from Issuu.