Battling Boy, by Paul Pope (First Second, October 2013, ten and up)
In an alternate Earth, the giant city of Acropolis is infested with monsters, who wreck havoc on its people. Right at the beginning of Battling Boy, the one hero, Haggard West, who stood against them with his high tech inventions, is defeated.
But Earth is about to get a new superhero--a boy from a clan of god-like beings who are dedicated to fighting the monsters of the universe. This boy is sent to Earth to prove himself--defeating its monsters will be his rite of passage. But Battling Boy, as he is known, is young and uncertain, and though he has magical powers at his disposal (in the form of 12 tee-shirts depicting various animals, who can share their strengths with him), he really has no clue how he's going to do his job. For his first monster face off, he cracks, and calls in his supremely powerful dad for help. His dad obliges with an incinerating lightning bolt, and so the people of the city assume Battling Boy will have no problem blasting away. But he himself knows it's not going to be so easy.
In the meantime, Haggard West's daughter, Aurora, is planning to take on her father's role. And maybe, together, they can become the team who save Earth....
This is one for those who love classic cartoons of heroes fighting against impossible odds. It is full of brightly illustrated panels of mayhem, and the story moves briskly on from one frenetic confrontation with truly fantastical bad guys to the next. It was the bits in between the confrontations, though, that held my interest the most--Aurora, desperately working to fill her father's place, and Battling Boy, trying to cope with the adulation of the city's leaders while frantically wondering just what the heck he's going to do...This human element makes all the violence much more meaningful, and is what's going to make me come back for the sequel!
Battling Boy has gotten stars from Kirkus and Booklist, and should appeal lots to those who enjoy life or death struggles in which young heroes are pitted against formidable, and rather scary, opponents.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher