Publisher: Suspicious Behavior Productions
Writer(s): Matt Entin, Edward Kuehnel
Artwork: Dan Schkade, Marissa Louise (colours)
Release Date: September 20th 2017
It’s a fantastic premise – a disgruntled wrestler, in an attempt to boost his appeal, declares himself “Galactic Champion of the Universe” in a shoot promo. Unfortunately, fifteen years later, deep in the furthest reaches of space, a planet of wrestlers intercept the transmission of his interview and view it as nothing less than a declaration of war!
Co-writers Matt Entin and Edward Kuehnel keep the extra-terrestrial shenanigans to a minimum in the first issue of this new series, instead focusing on introducing us to our protagonist, “Rock and Roll” Rory Landell. We meet him on the eve of the biggest show of his career; a show where he has been booked to win the American Wrestling Federation World Championship from “Boy Scout” Bob Schultz.
There’s a mixture of humour and behind-the-scenes wrestling drama at play here, eschewing the fully kayfabed approach of, say, BOOM! Studios’ WWE series in favour of something a little more akin to Darren Aronosfsky’s The Wrestler, albeit significantly less bleak.
Entin and Kuehnel are also clearly either massive wrestling fans or masters of research, with all sorts of insider terminology and an authentic backstage feel to the scenes featuring Landell rehearsing his promo and meeting with the promoter.
While the actual wrestling is almost non-existent in this first issue (save for a little bear-on-hillbilly violence) artist Dan Schkade fully embraces the over-the-top aesthetic that frequently goes hand in hand with “sports entertainment”, packing his panels with all manner of rippling muscles and square jaws. The pages flow smoothly, and while there isn’t necessarily much here to really allow him to flex his artistic muscle, the basic premise of the series suggests that this level of restraint isn’t going to last for too much longer.
Credit should also be given to the typically solid colour work of Marissa Louise, who gives everything a suitably vibrant and energetic aesthetic – particularly the scenes ‘off planet’ – without things ever letting things become too cartoony.
It’s not without its flaws though, and one thing that’s working against the story so far is just how damn unlikeable Rory Landell is as a leading man. Egotistical, petulant and clearly only out for himself, Landell feels like the king of assclown you really can’t wait to see get what’s coming to him, rather than someone whose future you’re invested in. Now obviously characters frequently need some room to grow, and I would expect that Landell will get that opportunity once the extra-terrestrial wrestlers show up on his doorstep looking for a fight, but for the time being, it feels like we’re all going to be rooting for the aliens once the intergalactic smackdown begins.
It’s definitely going to be interesting to see what direction Entin and Kuehnel take the story in the issues to come, and just how wild and crazy Schkade and Louise are allowed to take things once the full extent of the premise is unleashed, but based on this first chapter, it looks set to be a thoroughly entertaining ride.
A slick and polished self-published comic with a winning premise and some suitably chunky artwork, Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia isn’t exactly packed with nuance or subtlety, but as an engaging genre mash-up, it most certainly delivers.
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