The Creed films are, like the Rocky films before them, strange artifacts as they are both very intimate, personal stories, but also sports movies for a sport that has been dying for almost 40 years at this point. Don’t get me wrong, people still love boxing, but the most mainstream boxing has been in the 21st century is through the Creed films.
The franchise also isn’t a natural fit for a comic adaptation, until you remember that Michael B. Jordan is a manga-loving geek who would probably love to see his most iconic character in the pages of a comic. That’s what “Creed: The Next Round” is; it is a smart, but flawed, execution of a strange idea, with some of the traditional issues associated with licensed comics.
Written by Latoya Morgan and Jai Jamison
Illustrated by Wilton Santos
Colored by DJ Chavis
Lettered by Andworld Design
Creative Directed by Michael B. Jordan
Ten years after the events of the blockbuster Creed III, Amara Creed is on her own path, stepping outside her father Adonis Creed’s shadow and training like there’s no tomorrow.
But when her division opponents no longer present a challenge, Amara’s drive will have her following in her father’s footsteps, going underground.
She’ll also need the perfect trainer, but perfection comes with tangled strings attached.
Superstar writers LaToya Morgan (Dark Blood, AMC’s The Walking Dead) and Jai Jamison (Superman & Lois), artist Wilton Santos (Break Out), alongside Creed III director and star Michael B. Jordan bring Creed to comics in a story no fan of the franchise can afford to miss!
Licensed comics in 2023 tend to fall into two categories: books that belong to a license, but aren’t really meant to be part of that film/show/product’s other stories (think Transformers or Alien), and works that are supposed to, hypothetically in continuity, continue a story from another source. “Creed: The Next Round” is from the latter school, where this is essentially playing the role of a sequel to Creed III.
There are pluses and minuses to both approaches, but it seems like the initial minus is the approach of Wilton Santos’s art. While there are some very well-done sequences here, so much effort is put into ensuring that Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson are accurately rendered that the rest of the visual storytelling suffers a bit. Comics are such an expressive medium that anything that shackles the creativity of the artist is always going to be a downside.
But that’s not to say that Santos isn’t doing quality stuff here; it’s simply that the burden of photorealism hinders those segments. Santos shines in the actual boxing scenes, where a sense of kinetic energy bursts out of his pencils, unlike the more posed, static scenes of conversations.
Those conversations, however, are another challenge for Santos and Andworld Design, as the trio of main characters often communicate through sign language, which is difficult to properly show through illustrations. In fact, very little actual signing is done, with the lettering simply having a different background/style when it is spoken versus signed dialogue. This can’t really be considered a dig against Santos, as it is a tricky thing to show through linework. Still, it would be nice if the story was able to incorporate sign language in a more meaningful way.
The script does a few very good things in this first issue: first, it fixes a major flaw in the Creed series by introducing one of Apollo’s other children into the story. Artemis, Apollo’s daughter and Adonis’s half-sister, is introduced at the end of the issue in a really meaningful role. However, this begs so many questions for the film series. Why does Donnie never meet his other siblings on camera? If his sister is a successful boxer, shouldn’t that have been mentioned when the press finds out about Donnie?
But if we can put those questions aside, it makes total sense to bring Apollo’s other kids into this story. Even the estrangement makes sense, and could lead to good stories down the road, if there will be more of these comics, or even films, down the road. I fully expect these connections to continue down the road, though depending on how the licensing works out, we may not get the logical endpoint of this story, which is Apollo’s granddaughter boxing Rocky’s [hypothetical] granddaughter one day.Continued below
The script, however, has some issues, too. The subplot about diversifying the Creed family business is as thin as tissue paper, and reads like a Chat GPT description of business. The underground fighting sequence, replete with ‘betting crypto on fights’ line, doesn’t work at all until the actual fights start. That section feels silly in a book that nowhere else does. It isn’t shocking that both Latoya Morgan and Jai Jamison come from the world of television, as the script never really feels like it is written for a comic. The freedom in writing for a stage without budget or physics considerations is never really shown here. This feels safe and a little restrained, which is another unfortunate reality for many licensed comics today.
All of this means that the debut issue is a real mixed bag. If you’re a fan of the Creed films, this is worth a read. However, it is important to recognize that this book loses a lot of what makes those films so great: the dynamic performances of the actors, the fights that feel like you’re in the middle of them, the propulsive scores. Good comics can do things that no film can, but “Creed: The Next Round” never goes that far, sadly.
Final Verdict: 6.2 – A decent debut that needs to commit to being a comic instead of a tie-in product.