HIDEOUS, BROKEN ABOMINATIONS whose very existences are insults to nature, pugs also happen to be incredibly, inexplicably adorable, which probably explains why nine out of 10 Portlanders own one. It also probably explains the popularity of Mike Norton, Allen Passalaqua, and Chris Crank's Eisner-winning webcomic Battlepug, which started in February 2011. Since then, each weekly update at battlepug.com has delved a bit deeper into a ludicrous tale of a nameless, Conan-like barbarian who traverses a fantasy world, seeking bloody revenge while riding on the back of a massive, drooling, loyal pug. It's as fun as it sounds, in large part thanks to writer/artist Mike Norton's effortless ability to capture the titular abomination's charming, bug-eyed befuddlement and accidental heroism. (One of Battlepug's majestic battle cries: "SNORT WHEEZE SNORT.")
All the crusty old fantasy tropes are here, dealt with through good humor and clever tweaks, including portentous prophecies and a naked beauty in an exotic fortress. But Battlepug's pages also feature a giant, Godzilla-like baby harp seal, an evil (and topless) toad witch, and a darkly sinister Santa Claus, meaning Battlepug's never boring and reads super fast. In fact, it might read too fast—collecting the first year of Battlepug, Dark Horse's handsome, oversized hardcover only costs $15, but also only weighs in with 56 comics pages. You'll tear through the whole thing in about 10 minutes, and while you can always go to the Battlepug site to read more, it might be worth holding off on buying it in print until a heftier collection comes out.