‘Battlecats #5:’ (Updated) Comic Book Review

Mad Cave Studios is a Florida-based comic book publisher which was founded in 2014 by CEO and Chief Creative Officer Mark London. As a relatively new publisher, they have focused on a handful of titles including the Battlecats series that follows a group of elite warriors known as Battlecats. The first story arc of this epic fantasy, “The Hunt for the Dire Beast,” introduces and follows the five warriors as they carry out King Eramand III’s edict to kill the Dire Beast in La Marque.

If you have been following this series, you may be scratching your head and asking, “Michele, didn’t you write about issue five earlier this year?” Well, I’m glad you asked, because the answer is yes. I wrote a review in January and then this past spring, I had the pleasure of meeting London and a number of his creators and staff when they had a booth at WonderCon. In talking with London, he explained that he and his team were re-working the fifth issue, because the feedback they received from their readers prompted them to action. It was a courageous and pricey endeavor for the young, up-and-coming publishing company to rework and reprint a 36-page comic. Was it worth it? Let’s compare the two issues.

In comparing both versions of issue five, much of the text itself has remained the same with minor omissions and additions. In the revised issue, there are noticeable changes in a number of areas. First, the order of the dialogue in each scene has been laid out differently, so the timing of the story beats is more pronounced and as a result, stronger overall. Secondly, London’s reorganization of his story has emphasized the building tension created by Kelthan's decision to return to the king with the beast rather than kill it. By the climatic scene, the tension arising from Kelthan’s earlier decision blows up when he is told by his king to obey an order that morally he struggles with. In addition, London underscores the king's demands when Natharien - the wise, old sage whose advice in prior issues have been above reproach - acquiesces and sides with the king’s wishes. The emotional wreckage of the moment is tragic for the warriors and is the stuff of epic stories.

As for the art of the updated version, there has been a shift with the visual creative team. Michael Camelo has moved into illustrating the issue, and Julian Gonzalez is on board as the colorist. Back again for lettering duties are Miguel Zapata and Christian Ospina. Right away, Camelo’s illustrations throughout the issue have improved on character proportion; hence, he conveys a sense of real power and strength by the warriors. Additionally, Carmelo’s choices for panel layout, camera angles, and composition of characters are well executed and varied to keep the visual experience fresh and engaging. In this version, the visuals enhance the story beats and guides the readers’ eyes on what’s central in each panel. Gonzalez’s color choices complement the illustrations and accentuate the action and characters. Zapata and Ospina round out with clean lettering that is easy to read. The placement of the speech balloons is well thought out; none of the crucial elements are obscured or crowded. 

Returning to the question of whether it was worth re-issuing issue five, I would say yes it was. The story and visuals presented in this revision are much stronger than in the original release. More tension is conveyed in the rework, resulting in a bigger payoff in the climatic moments before the king. It is also effective in leaving the reader asking for the next issue and anxiously waiting for its appearance. Special mention has to be given to the illustrations, which are flourishing with Camelo as the artist. Ultimately, this issue shows a commitment by London and his team to invest in creating and expanding the mythos of this universe.  And, as mentioned in other reviews for this series, Battlecats will most likely attract readers of fantasy and sweeping epics motivated by the hero’s journey, not unlike Lord of the Rings.

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