Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #266: The Rise of Aurora West by Pope, Petty, & Rubin

About a year ago, Paul Pope's graphic novel Battling Boy came out, telling the neo-mythic story of a boy from a land of heroes sent to save a gigantic city besieged by uncountable monsters, bent on random destruction and the stealing of the city's children. The story wasn't complete there; we clearly had at least one more book to go.

The world of Battling Boy -- that city of Arcopolis -- returns in The Rise of Aurora West, but this isn't that promised sequel. Instead, this book -- written by JT Petty and Pope, with art by David Rubin -- delves into the backstory of one of the important secondary characters in Arcopolis, telling a prequel that will, in its own turn, need to be completed in its own second volume, the promised The Fall of the House of West.

 Before Battling Boy arrived, Arcopolis was defended by its science hero, Haggard West. Armed with an array of tools and weapons and vehicles -- and his own wits and strength -- West battled the monsters with all of his strength, and just barely managed to stay even with them. Arcopolis was still infested with monsters, with daily attacks...but it never got any worse.

Rise focuses on West's teenage daughter, Aurora, at a time soon before Battling Boy. Aurora has begun to go with her father on his patrols, at the same time that the cruel and sneaky Sadisto is clearly planning for some larger mischief with a series of smaller, targeted thefts and outrages. (We've read Battling Boy; we know what's coming and what it will mean for the elder West.)

In chasing Sadisto's gang, the two Wests uncover a strange sigil, the spiral sign of a particular monster. Aurora remembers it, though: it's the sign that her imaginary friend made, the one who disappeared right after her mother was killed by the monsters. And so Aurora investigates, with the help of a friend from school, learning something of Sadisto's plan and more about her family's past.

It all ends in a moment of triumph, but doom is hanging heavy over all of The Rise of Aurora West: we know what happened in Battling Boy, and we know at the end that the sequel to this book will reflect that event somehow.

Rise is less mythic than Battling Boy was, more Young Adult-ish in its focus on Aurora in both her training under her father and her investigations into the death of her mother. It's more controlled and less exuberant than Pope's solo work, though Rubin's art has a lot of the energy and darkness and grunginess of Pope's best drawings. It does feel a bit like a tamped-down, domesticated Pope story, or like a fairly conventional story told in a world made for bigger and more audacious work. But even if it's not the full Paul Pope experience, it's still an engrossing and exciting trip back to Arcopolis, and Aurora West is an engaging heroine to take the trip with.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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