Battlepug: Written and drawn by Mike Norton
Published by Darkhorse
Sometimes, a book comes along with a concept so magnificent, so thought provoking and so wonderful, that saying the title is enough to make me smile ear to ear. Ladies and Gentlemen, here is my review of the first hardcover release of the Eisner winning webcomic; ‘Battlepug’.
The meat of Battlepug’s story is fairly standard fantasy fare; our nameless, shirtless hero starts out as a rosy cheeked young boy, and is forced to toughen up after a great tragedy breaks his family life apart, and he becomes the Conan-a-like you see on the front cover (If any of this is a surprise to you, you plainly haven’t experienced a single fantasy film or novel). The story might sound generic, but it’s the details that stand out, like the character from popular culture that serves as the hero’s mentor figure (these are details that I, of course, won’t spoil).
The story is broken up by little intermissions featuring our storyteller; Moll, and her two companions; Colfax and Mingo. These scenes are very much like a grandfather figure telling his two sons about fictional adventures he had as a kid, except you have to replace the two sons with two talking dogs (one of which is a Pug that resembles the Battlepug) and replace the grandfather figure with a curvaceous, tattooed cloth-less woman. It’s a stretch I know, but nevertheless these scenes give off a good fantasy-ish vibe, and do well to break up the action.
A lot of the charm of Battlepug is the sense of humour, or to be more specific, the dog-humour. It’s subtle, and doesn’t bring the fantasy plot to a halt, but it’s very much present. Pugs in general are ridiculed, but in an endearing way; the titular animal is always huffing and snorting, making all manner of adorable noises, and is underestimated by both the bad guys, and our hero. A good example of this humour in action is when the Battlepug takes out his first enemy; it’s hilarious and very dog-like. The pug from the chapter breaks is also the butt of the jokes, but he’s always stood up for. The way that the Pugs are drawn is inspired, with the heavy facial lines and blank expressions, a lot of care and attention is given to them – this comic knows its theme, and you can tell Mike Norton loves his Pugs.
It’s hard to find fault with this book, it’s really won me over. However, I will say that the story, as I mentioned earlier (despite its quirks) is fairly generic, and it’s quite expensive, especially for such a short release (only about 60 pages). The story doesn’t really have time to stretch its stubby Pug legs in that amount of time, but then again the rest of the story is very much available online for free, so this issue is hard to justify. Though, my main fault is with the ‘comic relief’ character that shows up about half way through. I feel he isn’t necessary – the book’s sense of humour works well without him, and he grinds on my nerves just a little.
Other than that though, I can’t recommend this title enough, it serves as a brilliant introduction to one of my new favourite web-comics, and is as weird and charming as the Pugs that the book revolves around. Well deserving of the Eisner.
The Bottom Line:
It’s charming, witty, but a little short. It’s well worth picking up, then going to http://www.battlepug.com/ for the rest!