November 10, 2013

Battling Boy is OK

9:18 am in comics,conversations,reviews Ulises Farinas


So it only took like 5 years or so, for it to come out, and its a hundred-something pages of meh. Of course, whenever a beloved comics artist does anything, everyone falls about into convulsing fits like “Ermagerdddd! HE DREW SOMETHING!”

I’m one of Paul Pope’s biggest fans, and he’s also one of comic’s top creators. When i first started reading comics fairly regularly, which was actually kind of late next to most people, i bought every one of 100%. I think it was 5 issues, and truth be told, i could not tell you what it was about now. I do remember a sequence of screaming tea kettles that was pretty neat. There was the strip club that showed the organs of the dancers, which even though its a cool idea, pretty far fetched. But nonetheless, far fetched ideas and kinetic brush strokes is what sold me.

I hesitated to buy this, cause true to my hipster roots, if everyone says something is cool, my first reaction is to hate it. But then i’m torn, because although i criticize comicdom’s complete lack of taste and drone-like adherence to “THIS IS GOOD AND THIS IS BAD” mentality, it gets to me too. I’m not some golden god sitting on high, i’m a dude who wants to be cool too. I had a conversation with a bunch of folks in comics, saying how there hasn’t been an amazing book in comics in like 15-20 years. Sure there’s good books and great books. But amazing? All our heroes are dead, and we live in mediocre times.

Paul Pope is one of the few artists that most people agree on, but Battling Boy is like he picked up his special Mad-Libs edition copy of Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey and filled that shit out. Honestly, i hear about Joseph Campbell so much, you’d think the mother fucker would show up at your funeral. Some weird uncle of all the story telling cliches we know of, that excuses every instance where our skeleton is showing. The hero’s journey is not something that supports itself, it’s not engaging on its own. Battling Boy is like meeting a cute dude at a bar, you’re fucking ready to get to his place and get fucked like a rockstar, and then you show up, he turns the light on in his room, and he’s got a tiny bare mattress on the floor with a flat pillow.

First of all, the biggest criticism i have has to be levied at First Second. Honestly, here’s an artist who draws on giant sheets of paper. When you see Pope’s brushstrokes, its a joy to follow them taper and fatten like some kind of ink snake. This is a book that is about anacondas, published like its a kid’s book about worms. Go big or go home, and if you’re gonna have a bare bones monster story, you better Rita Repulsa that shit.

Second criticism is all on Pope though. But it was hard to say, because the book is so tiny, there were times where i was just thinking “This shit just looks rushed” Some panels are beautiful, no doubt, but they are beautiful in the way the ocean is. You see some waves, after awhile, you’re not gonna criticize each one “Not enough foam on that one” But for a book that took so long to come out, i was hoping for some jaw dropping art work. The equivalent of when the bass comes in heavy on a rap song and you know the artist is gonna tear some shit up. I dunno, maybe my speakers cut out, but i couldnt hear shit. Half the time, when i listen to Nas, all i think is “Aw maaan, shut the fuck up already,” cause you heard it all before. But i’ve seen more beautiful pages in Batman Year 100.

The whole book is just spinning its wheels. Part of me thinks, well, it’s sort of a kid’s book. But i’ve read kid’s books that have done more than just be simplistic. But the story, is simplistic. It does nothing, goes nowhere, strong kids being strong, strong men being strong, monsters being monstrous. The monster designs aren’t so captivating to carry it, like a great Kaiju movie, and neither are the heroes. Battling Boy’s father is the best, most engaging character, and honestly, i wonder why the story wasn’t about him. Here’s your comic’s required Kirby love, and he’s off in space doing space shit. Battling Boy has cool t-shirts, which seems like a great merchandising idea, but he’s a blonde kid wearing a tshirt and jeans and all i’m waiting for is the “THE POWER IS WITHIN YOU” line, but that’s probably gonna be in book 3 or so.

But there’s no reason for a book 1. All of it could be summed up in prologue, and if i was a kid, i’d think like a kid, and be like “What a rip off, he doesn’t even fight any cool monsters.” Its unfortunate, because this could be gigantic, should be! But the book is small, the ideas are small, and the best parts of it are constrained by the rest.

Find more work of Paul Pope at

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