Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West (Uncorrected Proof Copy)


By Paul Pope, J.T. Petty & David Rubin (First Second)
ISBN: 978-1-62672-009-1

Don’t you just love comics convention season? Here’s a splendid sneak peak at an upcoming instant classic from a modern master of comics courtesy, I’m assuming, of the publishers promotional outreach budget….

Paul Pope is undoubtedly one of the most creative and visually engaging creators working in comics these days. Since his debut in 1993 he has stunningly combined elements of European and Japanese styles with classical American fictive themes to produce uniquely tweaked tales of science fiction, fantasy, crime, comedy, romance, adventure and even superheroics.

If you’re not a fan yet, check out Sin Titulo, Batman: Year 100, Heavy Liquid, 100%, One Trick Ripoff and other mature reader titles and most especially the previous volume in his occasional series Battling Boy and its delightful supplement The Death of Haggard West

His latest venture is aimed a general readership – Hey, Kids, This Means You! – and features a world so very similar to our own but with one big, dangerous difference…

Arcopolis City would be the perfect place to bring up kids but for one thing. Ghastly devils roam at night, causing chaos in their unrelenting quest to steal all the children.

Even the daylight hours are becoming increasingly fraught as a seemingly endless succession of horrendous behemoths and leviathans incessantly carve a swathe of mindless destruction through the bright, breezy thoroughfares…

They aren’t the worst however. The true threat is the hidden gangs of extremely smart monsters led by the likes of the sinister Sadisto who acts as a vile capo of a hellish alien underworld…

The situation only began to turn around after bemused junior deity Battling Boy was unceremoniously dumped in the harassed metropolis by his tough-love war-god dad, but this electrifying yarn is a prequel to that particular saga.

The Rise of Aurora West is set in the months before the evocative advent of the juvenile saviour, when all that stood between the howling night-haunters and their preferred prey was an aging “Science Hero” and his highly-trained but understandably cautious, rather pessimistic, teenaged daughter…

Haggard West has battled the terrors ever since they first appeared; initially beside his wife and – now that she’s old enough – his daughter Aurora.

The girl’s life is a whirl of energetic physical practice, martial arts training, detective tuition and (to maintain a safe cover) school at the prestigious St. Ignomious Prep, but she can’t help but dwell on the facts that the never-ending crusade has already deprived her of a mother and is killing her dad in slow, painful increments…

This particular evening father and sidekick are stalking a pack of hooded horrors intent on securing some strange device for disreputable squid-witch Medula. Unfortunately, after a blistering battle, the majority of the monsters make their escape with the enigmatic doodad, leaving the senior Science Hero to painfully question an unlucky captive…

It knows nothing valuable but before expiring it scrawls a strange symbol in the dirt – one which has a shocking effect on Aurora…

Back home, as formidable housekeeper, medic and trainer Mrs. Grately ministers to the battered senior West, Aurora cannot get the symbol out of her mind. Driven by instinct and distant memory she heads for the library and finds an old long-forgotten scrawl she scratched on a wall when she was only three years old. It is the same sign…

Grately fills in the details. It was a time when the monsters were only just beginning to appear and the defacing took place due to the suggestion of the toddler’s imaginary friend Mr. Wurple.

With breathtaking clarity Aurora recalls everything: the conversations with the silly phantom and how he vanished a year later… on the night the monsters killed her mother…

Agitated and obsessed, the teenager goes into a frenzy of research, tracing the symbol to an archaeological trip her family took to see the Sphinx when she was barely walking and talking. With growing horror she recalls how she stumbled upon a secret entrance into the edifice and how her parents discovered the strange mummy of an ancient hero who had died fighting monsters thousands of years ago…

She also remembers with shock how she was approached by a bizarre energy creature who begged her not to tell her folks he was there and realises that Mr. Wurple was real. Moreover ever since he “left”, Arcopolis has been a city under siege…

And thus begins the coming-of-age epic as the unsure girl becomes a resolute and dedicated hero determined to solve the disturbing enigma of her insidious imaginary companion whilst attempting to make amends for all the horrors and tragedies she might very well have unleashed on her home town, friends and family…

Scripted by Pope and J.T. Petty (Bloody Chester) with stunning art by Spanish cartoonist and illustrator David Rubin, this is a superb and moving sidebar yarn, packed with clever intoxicating mystery, astounding action, tense suspense and beguiling characters that will delight older kids, and reads even better if you’re their adult keeper or guardian.

© 2014 by Paul Pope. All rights reserved.

Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West will be published on September 30th 2014.