Tuesday, 10 January 2017 16:47

‘Battlecats #5:’ Comic Book Review

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The first story arc, “The Hunt for the Dire Beast,” is concluding with issue five of Battlecats, a digital comic book series from Florida-based Mad Cave Studios. In fact, it is hard to believe but it was a year ago that I reviewed the premiere issue of this series. Hopefully, you have been following the progress of my reviews and perhaps even started reading the series yourself. In case you are not familiar with the series, this is an epic fantasy tale that follows a squad of warrior cats – Battlecats, in case you didn’t catch the titular title – who have been sent on a quest by King Eramand III to return with the head of the kingdom’s arch nemesis, the La Marque dire beast.

The series has taken a rather unusual path to get to this fifth issue. Issues #1 – 3 followed the warriors as they made their way to dire beast’s lair; however, with the fourth issue (labeled as Issue #0), readers are given a history of Valderia through the narrative of the wise and ancient sage named Natharien. Going out of order may seem odd, but after reading this issue, readers will discover that writer Mark London has been leading the story to a big reveal. In addition, London incorporates facets of the hero’s journey, something that was not readily apparent until Issue #0 and is then further explored in this issue. It lays a foundation for why this story arc is important. It answers some questions, but leaves many more to be answered in the next story arc which promises to be filled with turmoil and conflict.

Now, the issue numbering is obviously not conventional, but in the end, the order by which the story unfolds does work well. I would suggest reading the series in this manner, but the series could also be read in sequential order - and since London and the studio are establishing Valderia as a new world in which to explore. The Tome of Valderia, a separate publication which provides the mythos of the kingdoms and the gods, is worthwhile for readers interested in becoming even more familiar with the world of the Battlecats.

London is joined by illustrator Andy King, who has been completing the art since the first issue. Michael Camelo moved into the colorist role this time (from lettering), and Miguel Zapata and Christian Ospina completed the lettering for this issue. As with the prior issues, the digital format results in richer colors used throughout the issue. The layout of panels is more reserved, and I believe that is because this had more narrative to share. It was a good balance, so the art works to support the narrative rather than overpowering it, as can happen in some comic book series. In the battle scenes, King did incorporate diagonally lined panels which conveyed a sense of motion to complement the action within the panels. The lettering was clean and easy to read. Narrative captions and sound effects were also nicely done and did not interfere with the story unfolding in each panel.

There are a couple of challenges with this series; one is related to this specific issue while the other is an overall comment. On several pages, many of characters in this issue tended to be a bit blocky in appearance. This is an unusual occurrence for the series as a whole, and sadly, for a number of the pages in which our Battlecats’ story unfolds, they seems to fall flat across the panels. Again, this is not usual. The second is an observation: There is a few months gap between issues. I do wish they came out more regularly; monthly would be fantastic, or even every other month so the story stays fresh in readers’ minds.

This series does require a reader’s patience because of the gap between each issue released (on average, just over two months) and, because this is a story that is building a mythos that represents many eons. I don’t think that Dungeons & Dragons was built in a day; neither is Battlecats. And, as mentioned in prior reviews, readers who enjoy reading epic fantasy stories such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series should check out Battlecats. Less characters die in Battlecats, but there are a number of political intrigues introduced through this first story arc. If you are partial to cats as story characters, then you are likely to enjoy this digital series.




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