As I have mentioned in previous articles, there are so many great books being produced by comic creators that is near impossible to keep up with them all. Because of that, really great material can slide by me in my never ending quest to keep up. Such is the case with Mad Cave Studios BattleCats. This incredible series written by Mark London tells a fantastic medieval fantasy tale in the mythical land of Valderia where Cats reign supreme. And since the third and final volume is getting ready to get started, it seemed like a great time to catch up on what we missed. Ok, what I missed. First up, BattleCats: The Hunt for the Dire Beast.

In the Beginning

Valderia was forged on the blood of the great Lion God. It was his seed that started it all.  In time, the felines rose above the other creatures, following the mandates of the Lion God. But not all was peaceful. Different factions warred against each other until a powerful leader was born. The first maned Lion named Eramad, who sought to bring peace to his people. Of course, not everyone chose to follow him.

There were Umbra Raiders who refused to give up their independence. Eramad and his followers were forced to flee to the Gardens of Solitude. There he was granted by the Oracle, the Mark of the Fang. This gave him God-like strength and allowed him to vanquish his enemies. But the powers were too great for any one Cat to contain and a part of those powers were passed into Eramad’s trusted advisors. He warned them that none of them could dare father children. The power they possess was too dangerous and must die with them.

King Eramad I and II

Time passed and King Eramad became a great and wise ruler. It was during his reign that the BattleCats were formed. Selected from each region of the land, they would be trained to be the best fighters in the realm. A five member powerful Royal Guard whose mission was to protect Valderia and obey the King in all matters. Although their membership changed over the years, it was always a great honor to be chosen, to be worthy to become a BattleCat.

As time passed King Eramad passed away and gave way to Eramad II. He ruled differently than his predecessor but brought more advancements to Valderia. However, defending his people from attack was not his priority. An uprising had begun, once again from the Umbra Raiders. King Eramad II was not interested in such trivial matters. Especially when he had the BattleCats. But while his trusted protectors would defeat the uprising, to King Eramad II, it was a failure on his part. One so great that he banished himself. Where he had gone was a mystery that no one had solved.

The Dark Ages

Thus there was a time that Valderia had no King. A period known as the Dark Ages. Fortunately, they still had the BattleCats to protect them and maintain order. At least until the coming of Eramad III. The third to bear the name, Eramad took a great interest in battle. So much so that he trained with the BattleCats so he would be ready to defend his people. He desired to be a great King like Eramad I. He was well on his way.

Each version of the BattleCats would chose a leader to command their number. In the beginning of Eramad III’s reign that leader was Valadar. The BattleCat who trained the King in the art of fighting. Unfortunately, there was an eventual falling out between Valadar and the King. So you won’t expect to see any greeting cards exchanged between them. But that is a tale for another day…or Volume.

The Current BattleCats

In the current iteration, their leader is Kelthan from Stormholt, chosen as a young cub to assume that mantle. Kelthan commands his Battlecats consisting of Kaleera from Greenspyre , Mekkar from Blackstone, Vaela from Arkhovia, and Zorian from Il-Shavaar. The very best of each region molded into an elite fighting team.

As the story unfolds, they have been sent on a royal quest. To journey to the region of La Marque and kill the creature known as the Dire Beast, who had been terrorizing the territory for many years. As per usual with them, the King’s wish is their command. So they set off to fulfill his directive.

 


The Quest for the Dire Beast

Along their journey they came across enemies, fought a few intense battles, faced death and life…and that was BEFORE they encountered the Dire Beast. It also lead to the discovery of a secret that their King was not keen on them knowing. In addition, Kelthan decided to bring the beast back to Stormholt City, which was not their mission (see above).

Needless to say Eramad III was not pleased that they had discovered the truth. Not to mention his displeasure at their failure to follow his orders. All he had asked was for them to kill the beast and return with his head. This apparent insubordination caused a massive falling out and the stripping of their BattleCat Status. (That seems kind of harsh, they DID bring back his head…it was just that his body was still attached). That was obviously some secret. As to what exactly happened and what that secret was, you must read the book. You know you want to. Besides, it leads right to Vol. 2.

Thoughts

The depth of detail and grande scope of the Valderia world created by Mark London is something to be read. He has created an expansive history full of mysticism and heroic characters. In fact, the story is almost Arthurian in nature. Full of majestic battles, betrayals, secrets, tests of loyalty and courage and London explores it all with skill of a historian but written accessibly for the fans.

Artwork Supreme

Buts let’s not kid ourselves, what really pushes this book to the upper stratosphere is the art. Artists Andy King and Michael Camelo along with Colorists Alejandro Giraldo and Julian Gonzalez have created a breathtaking volume of feline goodness. From the Lion God to the three “generations” of King Eramad and of course, the BattleCats, I couldn’t take my eyes off of each panel.

It still boggles the mind how I missed this the first go around. But that’s what the TPB is all about. Giving folks like me an opportunity to see what I missed. Speaking of that, it was a brilliant addition at the end of the book to see the breakdowns by writer and artists and letterer Miguel Zapata of certain pages in the book.  It’s like a magician showing you how they did some of their illusions. Great stuff.

Coming Next

So that’s BattleCats, Vol.1: The Hunt for the Dire Beast. You can find it where great comics are sold or you can read the first issue of the series for free here. Next time, I will discuss Vol. 2 in the Series, BattleCats, Vol.2: Fallen Legacy.

 

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