Paul Pope’s Battling Boy

20131108-182958.jpgBattlling Boy arrives to an earth-like place with some baggage, literally. He finds 12 T-shirts packed in his suitcase each bearing the image of a different animal. A smart kid, he realizes, “these were painted with inks made of pulverized moonblood! I am supposed to wear these into battle.” Each T-shirt imbues him with the power of the pictured animal.

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B.B. is second generation superhero. His father is a busy guy, he wears an operatic costume that channels Thor and Batman. Early on in the story another aging superhero, Haggard West, a sort of Rocketeer with wrinkles, dies at the hands of Sadisto. Sadisto, with a name like that you have got to be bad! Pope draws his demonic villians with verve.

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Pope’s drawings of elephants evoke Heinrich Kley’s pachyderms in motion. Pope’s individual frames are each splendid, in sequence they become absolutely stunning.

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Just as today’s films are edited at a faster clip than yesterdays, Battling Boy’s pace is ramped up from that of superhero comics’ silver age. Of course, individual readers can slow the motion down a notch, or even back up if need be. I found the story compelling and I know I am way older than the target audience. The violence is cleverly staged to shock without gore. This book is library safe, but still exciting. And Battling Boy has pluck. I hope to see him again.

Battling Boy, written and drawn by Paul Pope, with surberb coloring by Hillary Sycamore, is published by First Second. More images from the book can be found here.

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