The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 125 | Mike Norton’s Battlepug, Vol. 1: Blood and Drool hardcover review

Leaving Proof 125 | Mike Norton’s Battlepug, Vol. 1: Blood and Drool hardcover review
Published on Friday, June 8, 2012 by

Webcomics on paper? What’s the world coming to? Read the Leaving Proof review of Mike Norton’s Battlepug, Vol. 1 to learn more about this cross-media abomination!

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • An absolutely fun (and funny) read.
  • Beautifully illustrated and colored.
  • Over-sized book dimensions and landscape page orientation showcase the art to its fullest.

Cons:

  • None of note.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: July 2012
  • Writer and Artist: Mike Norton
  • Color Artist: Allen Passalaqua
  • Letterer: Chris Crank
  • Covers Artists: Mike Norton and Dominic Marco
  • Format: 72 page full-color hardcover; collects entries in the weekly Battlepug webcomic posted between 14 February 2011 and 13 February 2012.
  • List Price: $14.99 US (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on 04 July, 2012

Preview Images (Click on images to view in larger size)

*Note: the interior page previews are mirrored from the webcomic and are not pre-authorized previews of the book’s contents. Clicking on the interior page preview images will take you to the appropriate archived Battlepug webcomic page

 

 

 

Full Review

In a recent interview with the Comixverse, Empowered artist and writer Adam Warren stated that there seemed to be a lack of crossover “between readers of print comics and readers of webcomics,” citing the observation that many of the people reading Jim Zubkavich’s Skullkickers webcomic did not know that it had a parallel existence as a print comic book published by Image Comics, and that a large number of those readers had never even heard of Image Comics!

This is a very important observation coming from a veteran industry professional, especially in light of the fact that more people read webcomics than print comics these days. Here are some numbers for you: The popular Penny Arcade webcomic has an estimated 3.5 million regular readers and averages around 2 million daily page views, last year’s PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) Prime convention in Seattle netted over 70,000 attendees, and in 2010, Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik were listed by Time magazine among the world’s 100 most influential people. It seems like while we were all pulling out our hair and beating our chests over steadily declining comics sales numbers, webcomics were rapidly gaining ground with readers the world over. Are the Penny Arcade characters more popular and recognizable to your average Joe than Superman? Probably not. But that doesn’t really seem to have much bearing on the fact that almost three times as many people will read Penny Arcade in one day than will buy issues of Superman over the course of the year.

Oh, you’ll occasionally hear older comic book fans (or younger, contrarian ones) smugly dismiss webcomics as an inferior medium of expression for artists and writers who couldn’t break into the world of “real comics.” To these sad, clueless throwbacks, I would point out multiple Eisner Award-winner Greg Rucka’s excellent Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether and the subject of today’s review, Mike Norton’s Battlepug.

What is Battlepug? One could call it a sword-and-sorcery parody or an absurdist action-comedy, but what it all really boils down to is that it’s an action and comedy heavy fantasy comic. Raised in captivity by evil Northland Elves after his tribe was obliterated by a giant harp seal, the book’s nameless (although he is occasionally referred to as “Meaty”), Conan-esque hero escapes his captors and embarks on a quest for revenge through perilous lands, in search of the scarred warlord behind the giant harp seal’s mad rampage. Along the way, the hero acquires the eponymous battlepug as his faithful canine companion and steed and picks up a sidekick in the form of a gibbering, smelly-looking, gray-bearded hobo. The book’s framing device, a frame story featuring a voluptuous storyteller named Molly and her two talking dogs, also provides welcome intermission from the action.

Now, it’s all well and good when the creative team on a book seems like it’s having a good time with a wacky premise, but that doesn’t really count for much if that sense of fun doesn’t come through in the work. I’m happy to report that if Battlepug is anything, it is absolutely fun (and funny). Battlepug‘s blend of well-orchestrated barbarian action, slapstick comedy, and non-sequitur humor is reminiscent of Sergio Aragonés’ Groo.

Battlepug is also beautifully illustrated and colored, not just for a webcomic, but as a comic in general. Norton—whose name may be familiar to superhero comics readers from his work on Marvel’s Runaways and DC’s All-New Atom—takes full advantage of the landscape page orientation, frequently using page-spanning “widescreen” panels as both background for smaller panels and as storytelling areas. This isn’t normally something I’m keen on, but with the horizontal page bearing as well as Norton’s judicious panel placement, the storytelling is clear and the panel-to-panel narrative flow is unimpeded. Allen Passalaqua’s colors are vibrant and dynamic, and he avoids the heavy-handed, over-rendered effects and oversaturated palette that some readers may have come to associate with webcomics coloring.

Dropping $14.99 on the print version of a free webcomic might seem like a pound-foolish proposition, but for readers who appreciate the tactile sensation and heft of reading a physical comic book, fifteen bones for a beautiful-looking, oversized, full-color hardcover is a bargain. Early shots of the volume show it to be a well-appointed product (that’s writer and artist Mike Norton holding the book in the picture below, by the way)

It’s also helpful to think of a purchase of this book (or any book that collects free webcomic material for that matter) not as “paying for free stuff,” but as supporting the creators’ ability to make free webcomics, not too dissimilar from clicking the “donate” button on an artist’s website or buying from their sponsors, but with the added bonus of getting a physical comic book in return. Recommended.

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