Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Rise of Aurora West

Battling Boy was one of my favorite graphic novels from last year,with its wonderful blend of superheroics, horror, and YA novels. This volume, The Rise of Aurora West, is the first prequel to that story, telling the tale of how Aurora West came into her role as a monster fighter and providing more insight into the villains who terrorize this world and steal its children.

A lot of the book revolves around Aurora's relationship with her father Haggard. He is seasoned hero and monster fighter, and, as you can see below, his mode of child rearing might best be summed up by the term "tough love."
He does not coddle Aurora in the least, because the enemies they face are devious and give no quarter. Eventually, the father and daughter come to a different kind of understanding. Also, along the way, we see how Aurora inadvertently assisted the monster enemies when she was a child and also may have had a hand in her mother's horrible fate. She is a wonderfully conflicted character, and the complicated plot has lots of twists and turns that build suspense and also surprise.
The story here is by Paul Pope and JT Petty. Pope is an award winning comics creator with decades of credits, and he talks about his work on this book here. Petty is a director, video game writer, and author who also wrote the underrated graphic novel Bloody Chester. The artwork is by David Rubín, a Spanish artist whose style is similar to Pope's. He speaks about his work on this book in this interview. He certainly excels at depicting fantastic science fiction landscapes, characters, and creatures, and I feel the black and white format only highlights his line work and narrative flow. These pages are dynamic and atmospheric, and my only complaint is the same one I had with Battling Boy, that I wish the pages were larger. I appreciate the manga paperback size being convenient and portable, but I would still love to luxuriate in a larger sized format.

Even though this is a darker story than Battling Boy, all of the reviews I have read have been celebratory. Kirkus Reviews wrote, "This feels like a very different direction for the characters, and it’s a thrilling one; expect readers to clamor for the next installments of this clever spinoff." Thea called it "a surprising powerful, emotional tale about the bond between a leader and a sidekick, a father and a daughter, rooted in one young heroine’s journey of self-discovery and realization." Win Wiacek concluded that it was "a superb and moving sidebar yarn, packed with clever intoxicating mystery, astounding action, tense suspense and beguiling characters that will delight older kids, and reads even better if you’re their adult keeper or guardian."

The Rise of Aurora West was published by First Second, and they provide reviews and more here.

Thank you, Gina, for the review copy!