Back in 2002 or 2003, my memory is a little bit foggy now, I headed to my first comic book convention: Wizard World Chicago (Now known as Chicago Comic Con). I wasn't really reading comic books, at the time, but I wanted to see what the big deal was. After a few hours walking around and looking at some of the creator-owned books, I bumped into the Funk-O-Tron table, which only had one book that caught my eye: BATTLE POPE. The cover was so ridiculous and the guy behind the table, which I'm pretty sure now was writer Robert Kirkman, sold me on it. I bought the trade of the first four issues and fell in love with the book.
BATTLE POPE is responsible for getting me back into reading comic books. This book is responsible for my one-time job at a comic book shop, which led to my job here at Comic Vine. I cannot say the same thing about any other comic/book/movie/television show. The creative team on this book may look pretty familiar. Robert Kirkman wrote it and Tony Moore did the art. This is the same team for the first six issues of THE WALKING DEAD.
So what is BATTLE POPE actually about? In this original 4-issue series, Pope Oswald Leopold II is not your typical pope. He's a heavy drinker and heavy womanizer. Although he's a bit short and looks out of shape, he was trained by Bruce Lee in martial arts. One day, God comes down to Earth and announces the Rapture, but only a few people ascend to Heaven. The pope is left on Earth, and now that the Rapture has happened, the gates of Hell have opened and demons have decided to raid Earth, mainly to have normal, Earthly lives.
One day, the Pope ends up cutting off a demon's arm in a bar fight, and later on, that same demon comes back and kills Pope Leopold. The pope awakes in front of God and Jesus (wearing a shirt that says "What Would I Do?" God sends Pope on a mission to save Saint Michael who has been captured by Lucifer in Hell. God gives the pope some super-powers and beefs him up and the pope and Jesus go on their way to save Saint Michael.
So why should you read BATTLE POPE? Well, the reprints under Image Comics has some new colors to it, since the original Funk-O-Tron books were in completely in black and white. That's one thing to look forward to! Aside from that, this book has a great sense of humor to it, as long as you don't mind a little poking fun at religion. It's a very bizarre and hilarious take on a super-heroesque character. Kirkman's writing is pretty over-the-top but it all keeps in the same tone of a overly-masculine book, in which you'll completely forget how wrapped up in religion the whole story is. Plus, there's nothing funnier than Jesus being a sidekick to the pope.
On top of the ridiculous story and solid comedy writing, we get to see some great artwork from Tony Moore. Just like the writing, it's over-the-top and hearkens back to 90s Marvel where everyone has muscles on top of more muscles... on top of more muscles. Each panel and page is filled to the brim with art. There is no wasted space here. It's an visually stimulating book. If you enjoyed the first 6 issues of the current DEADPOOL series, then you'll also want to read this. His art conveys the same humor here, and it's interesting to see what a top notch artist's work was like in their earlier days.
As I said before, if you're looking to pick up this story, as well as the others, Image reprinted these, in color, a few years back. It came out in single issues, as well as trades, so you shouldn't have a problem finding these books. In addition, you get to see older work from Robert Kirkman (INVINCIBLE, WALKING DEAD) and Tony Moore (WALKING DEAD, EXTERMINATORS). It's interesting to see where bigger name creators came from, and this series really made me a fan and follow of Kirkman's and Moore's work. While this book didn't have a long run, the first, four issue, story still holds up. It's rare to see a concept this ridiculous actually work and entertain as a series. If you like a fun book that's extremely over-the-top, then you're sure to enjoy BATTLE POPE.