- Battlecats #1 (volume 3)
- Mad Cave Studios
- Written by Mark London
- Illustrated by Michael Camelo
- Colors by Tekino
- With Ricardo Castillo
- Design & Letters by Miguel A. Zapata
With the fall of King Eramad, the kingdom is left in chaos. The people mourn the loss of not just a king, but also a way of life. Umbra raiders have jumped at their chance to add their own brand of insanity to the mix, attacking anyone in their way and spreading the word that their leader Valadar is the one true ruler. The city of Fanghelm, at the heart of Valderia, is burning. While there is still resistance to Valadar’s forces, it’s limited to spirited individuals found here & there, citizens who refuse to believe that their kingdom has no one left to defend it.
And where are the Battlecats, the warrior elite chosen to defend Valderia and its way of life, you ask? Have they abandoned Valderia in its time of need? Will the Battlecats ignore the pleas of the people they’re sworn to defend?
Come on. The title of the book is Battlecats.
I’ve been following Mad Cave Studios almost from day one, when they caught my eye at Wizard World Chicago 2016 (back when we still got to have those). Battlecats was their debut title, and showed a lot of promise as an epic fantasy combining the adventure of Thundercats with the darker themes of Game of Thrones. That’s a lot to live up to for a new creator spearheading the introduction of a new independent comic publisher. Mark would be the first to admit that he’s been learning on the job, and as a reader it was kinda cool being able to follow along on that course and seeing the progress of a writer stepping up his game. As the story moved forward, starting out with a solid foundation as a straightforward action comic and evolving into a much more layered narrative, Mark has built the world of Valderia from the ground up. Come to think of it, that pretty well sums up the rise of Mad Cave, starting out with a handful of eye-catching titles and growing into a publisher with a great selection of titles across all genres.
Moving into the third story arc of Battlecats, Mark has turned the world he built onto it’s head. The Cats are scattered. Their leader Kelthan, believing himself a disgrace after the death of their king, has crawled into a bottle. Several bottles. In all, things are pretty grim for London’s flagship title and he seems to be having the time of his life with it. Mark London is just doing his thing as a creator & writer, taking Mad Cave’s flagship title into full on Empire Strikes Back territory by dragging his heroes through the muck in volume 2, before putting them back on top. A much easier move would be to let his group of feline furies tear through their opposition like tissue paper, but that could make for a pretty boring read. London is taking the creative high road, letting his characters fail… sorry, falter… before they can pick themselves back up and get back into the fight.
From the start, Mad Cave has pushed themselves forward by maintaining impressive visual styles in their books, and I’ve thought that Battlecats in particular was something special. The art wasn’t perfect, as the action in the early issues was a little stiff, but again we were talking about all new creators putting their first comics together. Like in the writing, the artistic team has evolved. Heading into volume 3, Michael Camelo is doing some really good work with the ‘Cats, giving the anthropomorphic felines their own distinct features- a feat that can’t always be easy in a comic, even when dealing with fully human characters. On another feature that’s all-important in a title like this one, Camelo handles the action with a sense of fluidity to go with the power that you’d expect from a race of feline warriors. Cats never plod, and Camelo shows that inherent grace in his work.
Rounding out the visual appeal of Battlecats is the work of colorist Tekino, with a credited assist from Ricardo Castillo, and lettering by Miguel A. Zapata. The world of Valderia is one of bright colors and varied environments. In this issue, much of the story takes place in the burning city of Fanghelm. The color palette reflects that with backgrounds dominated by a hazy orange. On the lettering, Zapata keeps everything nice & tidy, the dialogue staying out of the way of the action as it worked its way across the page. I did get a kick out of some of the sound effects, and I’ll have to admit that I never really considered that the sound made by a whip might actually be “WHIP”, and I’m giving full marks for descriptive simplicity.
I’m happy to report that as we go into the third story arc, Battlecats remains one of my personal favorites among the indie comics I’ve run across since I’ve been writing for thePullbox. This was one of the earlier titles I had the chance to cover from the beginning, and following the progress of this fantasy action story has been a blast.
Final Score: 11/13