4 out of 5
Yeah, yeah, it was worth it.
It’s easy for me, as a keyboard jockey, to criticize the works of others, especially without having done any of that “work” of my own. I haven’t had anything published, much less something that takes both writing and arting skills to produce. So I can say that I think Mike Norton’s Battlepug tried to back its way into a larger story from a willfully silly start and that I didn’t always find it successful, but that’s just me guessing at the creative process. Because given the conclusion of his mini-epic, in which all of the pieces come together in a sweeping rush of fantastic action, good comedy beats, and satisfying resolutions, maybe I ought to give the middle sections of the tale another opportunity. ‘Tis better to nail the ending than to let it stumble, after all, and lots of stories with fantastic midsections don’t manage to do that from our bests of authors, nevermind writer/artists.
So Battlepug volume 5 does it all: it brings all the characters together; it makes good on every vague hints; it packs in a few good chuckles; and maybe most importantly: it actually sets up some stakes that give us pause on the page. Sure, you can be pretty assured that our unnamed barbarian will survive, but how? And how can he possibly best the giant monster now headed out to destroy everything? And how can our naked narrator still allow the book to be PG-ish if she’s not narrating from her well-blanketed bed?
True, Norton kinda cheats on the last bit (spoiler: she wears a dress), and yeah, maybe the way it all comes together feels a too bit cute, and there are remnants of my suspicions that this was partially retrofitting to match where we started… but the book moves at such a good clip that these niggles don’t niggle for long. The art is also stellar: Norton pulled out all stops in page layouts, making the big ol’ fight that takes up most of its pages (while still adding to the story!) thrilling from panel to panel, and I definitely got to see some fun creations I hadn’t been expecting.
So yeah, it was worth it. Battlepug is a fun series, on the whole, but it’s got a great beginning and ending, which helps seal the deal on the entire package being worth a journey (or two).