I wasn’t expecting much from this spinoff of the Paul Pope graphic novel it shares part of its name with. After all, it’s only co-written by him with a couple of people I’ve never heard of providing additional writing and the art. JT Petty and David Rubin, as co-writer and artist (respectively), actually do wind up providing us with a solid adventure that helps flesh out the subtitle character, her father, and the city of Arcopolis. Even if she’s still learning the ropes, Aurora still proves to be a very capable fighter as she holds her own on nightly battles against the city’s monsters with her father Haggard West and balances training and school during the day. Aurora’s a very sympathetic character as well, who lost her mother in a mysterious accident at an early age. Though the trail for that ran cold for her father years ago, new evidence suggests that it may have ties to her old imaginary friend, Mr. Wurple. This may seem silly, bordering on ridiculous, but Pope and Petty do an excellent job fleshing out the father/mother/daughter dynamic of the West family through flashbacks and revealing to us how the death of Rosetta West still haunts the primary cast to this day.
There’s also the fact that the world of “Battling Boy” is still one very much versed in the conventions of superhero fiction, and “Aurora West” doesn’t try to duck out on its legacy. We get plenty of fighting between the Wests and the various gangs of monsters in Arcopolis as they make plans for some new invention that will finally give them the upper hand. Though this might sound very grim, seriousness is only injected when it’s appropriate. Most of the time the tone is light, even tongue-in-cheek with things like Haggards “throw her in at the deep end” style of training his daughter complete with lines like, “No jetpacks until you’re eighteen.” This is all well and good, but the volume stumbles with Rubin’s art. Though he’s a good storyteller with an energetic style, it’s also one that channel’s Pope’s to a distracting extent. You can see bits of Rubin’s own style breaking out in some of the monster designs, except that most of the time I wound up thinking, “That looks like Pope, but it’s not quite right.”
Even with this issue, the rest of “Aurora West” was strong enough to make for a more entertaining read than I was expecting. It’s also impossible not to at least like a superhero story where, when faced with a surprise monster attack and without any of their gear, trainer Ms. Grately asks Haggard if he has any weapons and his response in the next panel is to put up his dukes. The second volume of “Battling Boy” is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2015 with the next “Aurora West” following later. If they wind up having to switch dates because Pope needs some more time to get the second volume of the former just right, I won’t be too disappointed based on what we were given here.