Catch Up at the Comic Shop May 27th, 2020

When new books went on hiatus, the Panel Patter team dug into our bookshelves and longboxes for great comics that you might have missed that we hoped were still available in your favorite local bookstore or comic shop. Well, new comics are back (yay!) but there's still a ton of great older books to finish, so we'll be keeping Catch Up as a recurring feature for the foreseeable future. Enjoy and maybe find your next favorite book!

Tetris: The Games People Play by Brian "Box" Brown, published by First Second
Box Brown is a fantastic graphic storyteller and creator, and I've loved all of his books that I've read. I just recently reread Tetris: The Games People Play (Tetris for short) and it's a fascinating read. It was also an easy sell for me - I'm not much of a video-game player, but I have loved Tetris since the first time I played it, more than 30 years ago. Tetris doing a number of different things. First, it's a history of the creation of Tetris by a Russian computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov, who simply created this game because he loved games and has always been fascinated with the way playing games was beneficial for the human brain. Tetris chronicles the fascinating story of how Tetris (the game) became a widespread phenomenon. Second, it's a deep-dive into the sometimes fly-by-night world of computer software licensing, and the more wild west feel that it had back in the 1980's. You wouldn't necessarily think that contract negotiations would make for an exciting comic, but Brown brings his storytelling skill to this, and weaves a compelling tale of various characters. Lastly, Tetris takes a broader look at the origins of game-playing, and the reasons for it and its importance over the course of millenia. It's a terrific read.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope
Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty and David Rubín
Battling Boy: The Fall of the House of West by Paul Pope, JT Petty and David Rubín
Published by First Second
Battling Boy is a very entertaining graphic novel first published in 2013, by the extremely talented Paul Pope. Anytime Pope does anything, it's worth paying attention, and Battling Boy is a highly entertaining read. It's Pope's take on superhero mythos. The City of Arcopolis is protected by vigilante Haggard West, and more recently his teenage daughter Aurora West has also been crime-fighting. Arcopolis is overrun with monsters though, and there is a mandatory citywide curfew because the monsters come out at night. And sadly, Haggard West has recently been killed by the monsters, so the people of Arcopolis are scared that they will be without a protector. Enter Battling Boy. He's a god, living in another dimension. His father is a great and powerful superhero/god-type figure (looks a lot like Thor), and at Battling Boy's 13th birthday he needs to be sent out to provide himself and overcome great challenges. Battling Boy's father sends him to Earth to be the protector of Arcopolis. However, things don't necessarily get off to a perfect start.

Fair warning - to say that Battling Boy ends on a dramatic cliffhanger is a huge understatement. Honestly, it feels like it ends just as the story is picking up steam. But I still think it's an excellent read worth exploring. It's a fun and engaging take on the superhero mythos, but really the reason to pick this up is because Pope is an INSANELY good artist. He brings so much motion and energy and excitement to every single panel of the comic. And his depiction of movement and action is just astounding; there are panels I look at where I swear the art is moving. Pope's artwork is that dynamic.  But the sudden end of Battling Boy will leave you wanting more.

The great news is that there ARE more stories in the Battling Boy universe. There are two graphic novel prequels, The Rise of Aurora West and The Fall of the House of West (they are parts 1 and 2 of the same story), and they are absolutely fantastic read. They're written by Pope and JT Petty and illustrated by the spectacular David Rubín. Now, my love of Rubín's work is well-documented, but I believe The Rise of Aurora West was where I first encountered Rubín as an artist. And Rubín does stellar work here. All the monsters are genuinely creepy, and Rubín has an incredibly fluid feel for design, in the same school as Pope, Nathan Fox, and other similarly stellar artists. Rubín brings all of the action and drama to life, and it's a great story, as we really get a look into the life and mindset of Aurora West and her father. These two prequels tell a complete story that will definitely leave you wanting more from the world of Battling Boy.