In the foreword to the first volume of Mike Norton’s Battlepug, friend and fellow artist Skottie Young talked about how the book was bred from Norton being allowed to do whatever he wanted: No editors, no publishers, no outside input of any kind. Having now read both volumes of Battleplug, I would encourage more writers and artists to dabble in this experiment of letting loose. Battlepug Volume 2: This Savage Bone is a continuation of the lunacy Norton started in his first volume only with more peril, consequence, and drool. It’s unhinged and it’s great.
Picking up right where we left off at the end of volume one, the nameless brave warrior, the feisty old man Scrabbly, and our titular pug have unknowingly rescued a little girl named Bryony from a treasure chest stolen by a band of thieves. Though dressed in garb befitting a princess, it’s obvious from the moment that she opens her mouth and drops a F-bomb that this is not a typical Disney-esque rescue. Bryony leads the charge back to Leamhan and her father to discover that a traitorous general has burned the city and the last survivor is Black Sasha, a fierce warrior of the Leamhan Special Guard. Yet the general was not acting alone but was under the control of Catwulf, a beast mage that so happened to have been the same man that destroyed the warrior’s village so many years ago….
Battlepug’s tale is presented in storybook form and as such, Norton’s art has a welcoming style befitting that presentation. Characters are slightly exaggerated and cartoonish, and Allen Passalaqua’s colors are bright and colorful. His lush landscapes in this particular volume stand out among some of the best panels in the book. Facial expressions are top-notch especially when it comes to the expressive Bryony, who goes from glowering at her rescuers to absolutely beaming once she discovers they have a puppy. Not to mention the expressive Colfax and Mingo, the two dogs to whom this story is being told and who are constantly interrupting to put in their two cents. The look on Mingo’s face when he discovers dogs have fingers is priceless.
Above all else, this book relies on visually absurd humor, and with a name like Battlepug, is that entirely unexpected? Expect to see a skyscraper-tall fire-breathing salamander, a villain surfing on the backs of two dolphins, and of course, a bug-eyed, tongue-wagging pug dog chomping down on a giant spider. There’s even a clever bit where all of Bryony’s curses look as if they’ve been run over with a black marker, leaving the faintest trace of her original word behind. Although it doesn’t contain quite the same laugh-out-loud moments of its predecessor, Battlepug Volume 2: This Savage Bone continues to push the positive results of a creator allowed to work unhindered and unleashed.