I was introduced to independent publisher Mad Cave Studios five years ago when they released a new digital comic book series, Battlecats. I was drawn in by the fantasy adventure tale of a squad of warrior cats who had been sent on a heroic journey on behalf of their king and where their success or failure would impact the future of all. The setup in that first issues reminded me of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and with each subsequent issue of the first story arc, Battlecats established and delivered the promised epic tale glimpsed in the debut issue.
The first issue of the third volume titled “Hero of Legend” is slated for a July 7 release; however, I recently had the opportunity to read an advance copy. Volume three picks up in Valderia’s capital Fanghelm, drenched in flames, two weeks after the demise of King Ermand. In the opening scene, Umbra raiders terrorize the capital’s citizens with the expectation that they will yield to the victor, Valadar, or risk bodily harm or even death. Further in this issue, readers meet back up with the Battlecats; however, one warrior has taken the loss of the king particularly hard. His spirit is broken and he tells his warrior friends that “pain is a good companion.” He rejects his friends’ assistance and turns towards his own difficult path, leaving the rest of the Battlecats to mourn not only their king but the friendship of their warrior companion. As a reader of the first volume, it was a pleasure to meet back up with the warriors and continue with them in their arduous journey.
Mark London, who is the creator and writer of this series, is back, maintaining a cohesive tone for returning readers. London seasons the first issue with details from the prior volume and while new readers could start with this issue, I would suggest going back and reading the first two volumes in order to understand and appreciate the events unfolding in volume three and the motivations of each character. London, along with editors Giovanna T. Orozco and Chris Fernandez, convey clean dialogue that is engaging and balances well between showing and telling.
Artist Michael Camelo, colorist Tekino, and assistant colorist Ricardo Castillo deliver fresh visuals by incorporating a variety of panel layouts that complement the events unfolding in the narrative. Battlecats continues to deliver rich colors while providing depth against minimalist backgrounds. Two pages stand out: the first appearance of Valadar sitting on his throne (hearkening the Bard’s Hamlet) and then a couple of pages later, the two-page spread of Valadar reflecting on the deaths of his companions. It is a powerful moment. The speech balloons are strategically placed in the panels where the eye expects to see text, yet stays out the way of the visuals. Rounding out the creative team is letterer Miguel Angel Zapata, who also serves as the book designer. Zapata’s lettering is clean, concise, and balanced. They are easy to read, be it in the speech balloons or the narrative boxes. A special nod to his choice of font for communicating the location and period of time, which conjures the vibe of a medieval fantasy tale.
I mentioned in the opening of this review that Battlecats reminded me of Lord of the Rings. While the former is an example of iconic characters being anthropomorphized, Battlecats is a portal for young readers to not only connect with animals – felines and canines – as sentient beings, but to explore complex themes, such as community, duty and honor, destiny, friendship, failure, and death. These are difficult topics for adults to broach with young readers, so using this series to mediate these themes with impressionable minds lends strength to Battlecats. Five years on, London and his team continue to successfully balance those themes with an entertaining epic fantasy tale, making Battlecats a worthwhile read and one that should not be missed.
Creative Team: Mark London (writer); Michael Camelo (artist); Tekino (colorist); Ricardo Castillo (assistant colorist); Miguel Angel Zapata (book designer/letterer); and Giovanna T. Orozco and Chris Fernandez (editors)
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
Click here to pre-order (or order through Diamond with Code MAY211561).