The residents of the city Acropolis are no strangers to the gruesome monsters and fiends who stalk the streets, stealing their beloved children at dusk. Thankfully they have Haggard West, science hero extraordinaire, closely watching over them and constantly keeping the baddies at bay.
After one unfortunate run in with the Ghoul Gang however, and the great Haggard West is no more, leaving the city of Acropolis searching for a new champion as their already war-torn city begins to accelerate quickly into decay.
Welcome to the exciting world of “Battling Boy,” written and illustrated by legendary comic artist Paul Pope and colored by Hilary Sycamore.
While Pope is known for his DC Comics work on titles like “Batman: Year 100” and “100%,” this is his first original graphic novel for young adults—first of many, hopefully—through First Second Books.
Battling Boy isn’t even introduced right away, for while all the chaos is spreading throughout Acropolis, far off in another realm an unnamed warrior god returns from battling a foe known as Tharalaxus.
Timing is of the essence, for this Thor-like character has also returned to see his son, Battling Boy, off on his rite of passage known simply as “The Rambling,” a test of strength for gods and demigods when they turn 12 years old.
Battling Boy’s destination? The city of Acropolis. His timing couldn’t be more perfect, for a giant car-eating beast known as Humbaba is terrorizing the city and just finished obliterating the 145th battalion.
While the child of a god, Battling Boy’s powers are somewhat limited. He’s not able to shoot bolts of lightning yet like his dad, but he is agile and strong.
Arriving with 12 magical T-shirts, each with a different animal totem giving him power, Battling Boy leaps into action wearing his Tyrannosaurus Rex T-shirt only to be quickly taken out by an annoyed Humbaba.
Defeated, Battling Boy calls upon his busy father for help, who sends a single devastating blast of lightning from another dimension, killing Humbaba.
While Battling Boy takes credit for the victory, he suddenly finds himself in the spotlight as Acropolis’ new champion, irritating both villains and heroes alike.
When Haggard West was killed, his daughter Aurora saw it as her destiny to take-up his mantle and continue his great legacy.
Only three days after her father’s funeral, she resumed her training to do him proud and get revenge on the Ghoul Gang led by the sinister Sadisto. After hearing Battling Boy is deemed the new champion of Acropolis, she finds herself quite pissed off at this unknown nobody.
Meanwhile Sadisto is preparing for the new threat of Battling Boy, and his reported ability to defeat his enemies through the means of lightning.
Uniting the criminal underworld against this new hero, Sadisto slowly finds himself rising through the ranks as a force to be reckoned with.
Battling Boy does find himself regretting telling the mayor and his public relations team that he can shoot lightning, for when an attack on the parade thrown in his honor commences, he doesn’t appear to be the same mighty hero who smote Humbaba with ease.
And that’s when the excrement really hits the fan.
Pope’s art throughout the graphic novel is phenomenal, especially his attention to detail in the chaotic action scenes.
With a style reminiscent of the comic greats like Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, Pope’s creativity explodes on every page while giving the reader an endorphin rush.
The mythical gods and their majestic floating Valhalla is absolute eye-candy and the malevolent Ghoul Gang look to be creatures made from nightmares.
It’s obvious that Pope is having a blast building and playing in this universe, allowing readers of all ages to enjoy it with him.
While the action scenes are breathtaking and the story a tad dark at times, “Battling Boy” is a definite treat in a medium ripe with unoriginality. With the holidays right around the corner, this would be the perfect gift for both new and longtime comic book readers.