BATTLECATS: TALES OF VALDERIA #3, available from Mad Cave Studios on June 10th, tells the origin story of the next team to be promoted to the rank of protector over Valderia. Kelthan, the main protagonist of this issue, is educated on the rich history of Valderia as part of his training to become the next Battlecat. It may have not been intended, but BATTLECATS is a more worthy successor to Thundercats than the recent cartoon reboots.
In the story, Zaphyra teaches young Kalthan about the workings of royal government. Kalthan aspires to become a Battlecat for the king, and he’s given the chance to pursue his dream. Along the way, he meets other students from diverse backgrounds but with similar goals. On every page, writer Mark London gives the reader digestible chunks of information about this world without making you feel overloaded.
London’s story of the team’s origins is, admittedly, thin. At best, this story barely qualifies as a prologue. That said, this is a perfect primer issue to educate the reader on Valderia, its menagerie of species, the customs and legacies of each character and their tribe, and give a glimpse of the future. If London had crammed all this world-building into a complete story in one issue, it would have either been twice as long or overstuffed with word balloons. London’s choice to create a story-thin but lore-rich issue was the right call and cleverly written in its setup.
Michael Camelo’s art style is super clean and very imaginative. Valderia is not simply another planet. There are floating islands and landscapes with odd geometries that give you plenty of visual interest. The creature designs are equally imaginative, and Camelo’s style has a vaguely manga flavor that’s atypical for fantasy books of this sort. Camelo’s characters and worlds are high fantasy in nature, but the designs of the landscapes and costumes add a scifi element that’s wholly unexpected in the best way.
Julian Gonzalez impresses with coloring that implies light, shadow and texture. All the characters in this issue are fur-based animals, so it would have been easy to defer all the fur texturing to the artist. Not so here. Gonzalez took the time to use multi-color fills and gradients to make the fur detail look finished without looking flat. It’s a strong bit of detail work that pays off in the end result.
Miguel Angel Zapata’s lettering is clean, clear, and keeps the readers eye moving along the page to maintain pace. Camelo’s art is stellar in this issue, so the last thing you want is to have the panels crowded with poor word balloon placement. Zapata demonstrates exactly how to put a lot of that world-building exposition in place while letting the stellar art shine through.
The lettering, however, doesn’t completely work with the combination of font choice and the use of italics. In a few spots, Zapata’s use of italics made the stylistic font a little hard to read, especially with names. It’s a minor criticism which can be easily adjusted in future issues.
BATTLECATS: TALES OF VALDERIA #3, available from Mad Cave Studios on June 10th, is a strong setup issue for future tales. The artwork is gorgeous and the depth of history is impressive. If Mad Cave keeps turning out books like this, I’ll be sticking with this series for a long time.
Author’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using Comic Shop Locator and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.