Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artwork: Nick Barber, Simon Gough
Release Date: 27th January, 2016
Wrestling has never really been my thing. There, I said it. Whilst I can of course appreciate the draw of the in-and-out-of-ring dramatics that it offers, my only real experience of this world and its sundries is with Darren Arronofsky’s ‘The Wrestler’. And the only real take-away that I can immediately conjure to mind from that is the amusing, continuously misquoted non-sequitur that ‘the 90’s fucking sucked’.
Thus, you can imagine my surprise when Ceej slid Ringside my way across the virtual desk. Surely I couldn’t have been the right person for this particular analysis? Issue #1 barely pinged on my radar, and given that I’m a pseudo-professional critic now, I grudgingly did my duty and commenced reading the series from its beginning.
So when I say that Ringside has me hooked, I hope you’ll now appreciate my full meaning.
After the cliffhanger ending of issue #2, we’re treated to some flashbacks that fill in precisely who Teddy is when it comes to washed-up wrestler Danny. Snap back to the present, and that taser Danny stole from Andre the bail-bondsman is, with close-to-resounding inevitability, coming back to haunt him.
The main allure of the series remains Keatinge’s exceptionally crafted dialogue – as with Shutter, he demonstrates his knack for creative swearing to great effect, but it’s the dramatic stuff that has real heft. For this issue, the best moment comes around the one-third mark: a beautifully weighted monologue from Danny on burning out that is a genuinely sobering moment. The story’s excellent as well, not afraid to knock any and all of its characters flat on their arses instead of providing them with immediate victory.
There’s also a wonderful synergy between writer and artists – Barber and Gough are clearly in love with the script, and whilst their combined stylings may at first glance seem borderline simplistic, there’s an elegance to it that’s deeply pleasing. They’re incredibly efficient at conveying the emotion of any given scene, with subtle tweaks to facial expressions, framing and colour palettes from panel to panel. It’s also incredibly cinematic, a curious fusion of ostensible glamour of the in-ring wrestling, and a neon-glazed noir vibe that conjures thoughts of Tubbs and Crockett.
Three issues in, and this remains an utterly compelling read, even – and perhaps especially – if you’re not a pre-existing fan of the wrestling oeuvre. Its insights into the behind-the-scenes insanity of such an operation are fascinating, and the drama that Keatinge creates – whilst at first seeming to be so off-piste as to border on lunacy – slides effortlessly into that endorphine-producing part of your brain that can’t help but love a great story. If you haven’t already, get aboard this series. It’s wonderful.
The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24