Friday, November 27, 2015

Review - Ringside #1 (@ImageComics)

"The world's done nothing but change, my friend. And you haven't move on at all."

Like it or not, professional wrestling garners a lot of attention and viewers. It's essentially a violent soap opera, but that does nothing to detract from the sheer physical toll that being on the road and performing so many days out of the year takes on the wrestlers. Relationships are formed and broken, with Ringside #1 from Image Comics focusing on it all. The issue is written by Joe Keatinge, illustrated by Nick Barber, colored by Simon Gough and lettered by Ariana Maher.

Each issue will explore the relationship between art and industry from the view of the wrestlers themselves, the creatives they work with, the suits in charge and the fans cheering them all on. But that's just the beginning. The real violence is outside the ring.

As someone who's followed professional wrestling off and on over the years, there's a lot that resonates with Keatinge's script in Ringside #1. That being said, there are definitely aspects of pro wrestler Dan Knoussos as a character that will resonate with any and all readers. Keatine does a masterful job of pacing the story very methodically, slowly revealing Dan's current plight as a "has-been" as juxtaposed against his desire to be something great personally. The interactions among the wrestlers feels genuine and contributes to the overall tone of the book. There's a fascinating reveal at the end of the issue that Keatinge uses to great effect to set up the future of the series, as well as truly define Dan as someone who doesn't know when to quit.

The most obvious visual comparison for Ringside #1 is Southern Bastards. Barber uses a similarly vague style that Jason Latour relies on, which adds a layer of grit to Dan's world that's reflective of the shadiness that goes on behind the scenes in wrestling. And true to form in wrestling, all the characters boast different body types that remind the reader that wrestlers come in all shapes and sizes, with Barber emphasizing those body type differences for varying forms of action. Barber's relatively simplistic style is extremely effective at keeping the reader abreast of all the wrestling action. Gough's color palette is rife with pale and pastel colors as well, further underscoring a certain pessimism pervasive throughout the wrestling industry.

Ringside #1 is a very somber look at a performer's life at the top and the consequences of taking a fall. Dan wants to redeem himself for something that happened in the past, but what that is remains something of a mystery. Keatinge's script is clean and concise, setting the characters up as flawed individuals struggling to let go of what made them great in the past. Barber's artwork is loose and carries with it a grime that's reflective of underhanded dealings and exchanges. Ringside #1 is a great first issue that sets the table exceptionally well.

Ringside #1 is in stores now.


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