By Joe Keatinge, Nick Barber, Simon Gough, Ariana Maher, and Shanna Matuszak
Ringside #9 takes the action to a new level, with a pretty gnarly cliffhanger that will leave you desperately waiting for the next issue. The book, co-created by Kestinge and Barber, follows the lives of people involved in the professional wrestling business. We get to see Reynolds, the green rookie, find his voice while the retired Minotaur, Danny Knossos, attempting to find jobs after achieving some notoriety as a professional wrestler. In case you have missed this book, it takes you behind the scenes of pro wrestling; the nitty, gritty turmoil that happens in between the house shows, big pay per views, and all the spandex. This is an obvious must read for any sports entertainment fan, but it also appeals to a comic audience with beautiful pages filled with tragic heroes.
When you think of wrestling, professional wrestling, there are a few things that come to mind like big muscled up men, tight-fitting outfits, and drama. There is plenty portrayed on the screen, but it is always a wrestling fan’s fantasy to imagine what happens behind the scenes amidst all the muscles and egos. The writing in this series from Keatinge has really just begun to scratch the surface of all the potential that lies in the world he’s crafting. The series follows Reynolds the eager young guy with a lot of promise trying to break into the big time and Danny Knossos aka Minotaur, a retired veteran who achieved some fame and accolade in his prime. The art does cast a rather somber mood over the entire issue, with lots of dark orange and grey hues and tons of dark intense shadowing gives this entire issue a sense of foreboding. Ringside #9 brings both Reynolds and Danny to situations they seemingly cannot get out of, with Reynolds maybe spoiling his chance to get into the big time with some TV time and Danny may be out of time completely.
As the book builds toward a climax, the writing and art come together to complement the tone and overall feel of each page. Art is featured from co-creator Barber with colors from Gough and letters from Maher. The art, much like the writing, feels like it has just begun to scratch the surface of the potential this world can bring. The panel layout and coloring from this issue is tremendous, with every page truly packed with gorgeous art laid out in meaningful, thoughtful ways. Some issues do arise with narration and dialogue layouts. During an overlapping moment between two intersecting events between multiple characters, there was little done to differentiate between dialogues on the page which made it hard for the reader to follow along.
The world of professional wrestling is a hard topic to translate to comic form, but this book is a nice attempt to capture the essence of the tragedy that is the performers and the ruthlessness of the industry. Think of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler – remember that movie and all the feels it gave you? Well, that’s what Barber and Keatinge are going for. This book overall has all of the grizzled somberness without the matched sparkly shine of the professional wrestling industry. The characters are all flawed and tragic; there are so many depressing cautionary tales of has-beens and naive rookies, that there is no upside or positive draw shown in the book. The book never takes the time to show much action actually in the ring. Matches are not shown, only in covers to serve as metaphors for the tone of the issue. There are no shiny belts, adoring fans, piles of money, or beautiful woman to serve as aspirational goals for the heroes. We get to see pretty one-dimensional characters get stuck in scenarios that seem pretty avoidable, all while striving to reach some level of fame or comfortability never really spelled out for the reader.
Ringside #9 is a book that deserves people to read it, but needs to ensure it is keeping the readers invested for the long haul. The pages that are beautifully taken care of could use an upgrade to include all the glitter and bling of the wrestling world. Something seems to be missing from these pages to give this story more heart, get more investment from the readers. There is a need and a want from WWE fans for a comic that can satiate all their backstage fantasies and this book is so close to hitting that mark.