Following in your father's super hero foot steps can be dangerous. For Aurora and the Battling Boy, it can cost their lives. Join these two heroes as they seek to possess the responsibilities of their fathers by facing the monster criminal underworld.
Writer/Illustrator: Paul Pope
Color: Hilary Sycamore
Writer and Illustrator: Paul Pope
Colors: Hilary Sycamore
Publisher: First Second
For fans of: Thor and Batman
The life of a super hero has many different faces. It can be driven by justice, popularity, concern or just following in your father’s footsteps. Battling Boy ventures into the lives of two children: the son of a god and the daughter of a scientific crime fighter. We learn quickly that taking on the family business of heroism comes with pressures, expectations and danger.
Welcome to Arcopolis, a steam-punk city that hosts a slurry of monsters lurking in the night. Its only hero is Haggard West, a cross between Flash Gordon and The Rocketeer. He and his daughter, Aurora, spend tireless evenings fighting Sadisto, a vampire gang leader who steals children. When Sadisto confronts Haggard on the streets of Arcopolis, Haggard gets killed by a projectile that was designed by Sadisto in case they ever needed to kill him. Now his daughter is the only person left to carry his legacy.
Meanwhile the battling boy has no name, and he lives in a heavenly realm with other Norse gods. His father and mother, who are also nameless, decide it is time for the boy to finish his Rambling journey. This journey entails sending the boy to Earth to be a protector and hero. Reluctant and scared out of his wits, the boy is jettisoned from his comforts of home and sent to Arcopolis.
New to the streets of Arcopolis, the boy quickly finds trouble with a car eating monster. His only tools are a mystical cape, a book about different monsters, and twelve different t-shirts that give him different animal powers.
The boy successfully destroys the monster with some major help from his father who sends lightning from across the galaxy to fry the monster. Afterward, the town wants to hire him as the official hero of Arcopolis. They believe he has the powers of a god, but truthfully, he has no idea how to defeat monsters without his father interfering. This proves to be a problem when the monster underworld hears about his triumph and commissions a hit on him. The vampires of Sadisto go on a campaign to kill the boy, which is almost successful, but Aurora steps in to help. After her father’s death, she takes the mantle of crime fighter.
It’s two kids against the darkest monsters in the world and the odds are not in their favor.
Violence: Monsters get thrashed around, kicked in the teeth and set on fire. It’s your usual super hero slugfest.
Swearing: No profanities are found in the story.
Sex: No scenes of sexuality are portrayed in the story. All the females wear modest clothing as if their hero costumes actually serve a protective purpose. Bravo!
Negative themes: The monsters of Arcopolis are violent and disgusting. They threaten each other with death, steal children, and love carnage.
Spiritual themes: A father must send his son on a journey that will make him a hero to civilians. The father is a renowned god of thunder and the son must face dangers to complete his journey. Sounds very similar to the call of Jesus. He was sent to Earth to destroy the monsters of sin and please his Father’s mission.
I really didn’t think that a story that mirrored so close to Thor and Batman would have anything creative or new in it. I was quickly mistaken as I found myself enjoying the setup of Aurora and the boy’s story. They are excitedly pushed into the world of heroism by living in their fathers’ shadows. Battling Boy excels in having a lot of heart and innocence where you want to see the child heroes be successful. Furthermore, this is not a story of heroes kicking butt and being awesome, but it concerns the forces of good struggling to overcome an evil that is powerful. You know the new heroes will eventually find their potential and become the city’s competent protectors, but in the present we see them hanging on by a thread.
The illustrations and pen work of Paul Pope can only be described as chicken scratch and wild thickness. Paul doesn’t follow the realism and clean art used by traditional super hero artists. However, I don’t think Paul Pope is a horrible artist— he is demonstrating a carefree style that many professionals use to differentiate themselves from mainstream comics. This is not your dad’s Superman comic; First Second is a indie brand and you probably never heard of it.
The story in Battling Boy is cute at times and whimsical, suggesting that tweens are the preferred audience. For that reason alone, I would want to share this series with my future children to get them into super heroes. I was also hooked on the story and kind of disappointed that this volume ended with the heroes losing and the villains triumphing. I am noticing more and more that graphic novel series are ending on cliffhangers, making the reader have to shell out another 15 bucks to finish the story. This really defeats the purpose of buying a graphic novel, which is to get a full and complete saga. If we wanted to end on cliffhangers we would just buy a three dollar comic.
+ Fresh whimsical hero story
+ Characters are a lot of fun
+ Great book for kids
- Chicken scratch drawings are a bit hard to enjoy
- Story ends with no resolution