Battling Boy appears to be Paul Pope’s answer to all the young adult Joseph Campbell stuff coming out in the last ten years. Only, of course, since it’s Paul Pope, it’s so much better.
The big thing Pope plays with in Boy, right from the start, is the fear of the unknown. He’s not dealing with these frightening monsters in prose, where he can hint at their hideousness; he’s drawing them, he’s visualizing them for the reader, but still has to make them terrifying in the imagination. The book opens with the Ghoul Gang, who are half dressed as mummies, have with these face covering rag cloaks. They kidnap kids.
Pope doesn’t go into it. Better left unsaid, especially in a book targeted for the youth market. It also allows Pope to play the monsters for laughs sometimes. There’s a monster bar where they all hang out and it’s a glorious mix of disgusting and hilarious.
The titular Battling Boy is a kid from another universe, sent to Earth to save the world from monsters… kind of like high school. When these kids hit puberty, off they go to some world or another.
There’s a lot of action, a little bit of character development (mostly on a female supporting cast member) and just wonderful artwork. Pope’s so strong, his full page panels showing simple events are still awesome. Boy is another fantastic Pope pairing of storytelling and artwork. They drive one another beautifully.
I’m already impatient for the sequel.
Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorist, Hilary Sycamore; publisher, First Second.