“GLOW” #1 takes an established cast and blows the doors open for some fun, fierce and original storytelling. It’s also got the craft to back up its high spots without breaking kayfabe.
Written by Tini Howard
Illustrated by Hannah Templer
Colored by Rebecca Nalty
Lettered by Christa Miesner
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are ready to take on the world-or at least LA-in this comic based on the hit Netflix series! When the unthinkable happens and the women of GLOW find themselves ahead of schedule, Sam ruins the promise of a wrestling-free weekend with… more wrestling! Robbed of blissful relaxation and forced to raise money to fund their way to the event, the GLOW team is less-than-prepared for their opponents: real gorgeous lady wrestlers. What could possibly go wrong?!
Howard’s interpretation of the characters is pitch perfect for a tie-in comic, and exemplifies the kind of storytelling that works best on the show. Multiple characters get time on the page in this issue, and the conceit of each woman having to pay her way to Wrestlefest means we get a lot of narrative ingenuity and development for each in a very short period of time. Ruth and Debbie aren’t front and center, which is refreshing, and if the book continues to be an ensemble piece it’ll be a lot of fun to see if any of the women who lack some screen time in seasons one and two can take center stage in subsequent issues. There’s even a stripper joke that lands correctly, because Sam’s the type of character who says exactly those things to the girls on the show. It also works because it doesn’t shame Yolanda in the larger context of the book, it’s just an example of Sam being his sarcastic, insensitive self, and a nice nod to the immediate economic gain of the profession without loading it with unnecessary (and inaccurate) tragedy porn.
What’s really fantastic about “GLOW” #1 is the attention paid to the world of indie wrestling. GLOW is a bit of a niche thing even within the bizarre world of sports entertainment, and Howard immediately digs into that by having the girls visit an actual convention. Wrestlefest is a perfect example of the cons and shows typical of the circuit, especially in Southern California, and the carnie vibe is spot-on. The stakes are high as the girls learn they’ll be taking on the Star Primas, who’re definitely no joke, and there’ll be some attitude adjustments in store as it starts to sink in that the GLOW crew might not be entirely welcome.
Templer has a large cast to deal with and does it very well. Each character is recognizable as their live-action analogue on the show, and a big group of lady wrestlers means a lot of great facial expressions, wardrobe details and body types to play with. Templer also clearly did some homework because we’re not dealing with overly femme versions of Reggie or Carmen, while Melanie and Britannica are hair-sprayed and bedecked to perfection. Templer’s cartoonish style meshes really nicely with Howard’s humorous writing, and the combination helps keep the fun dialed in without sacrificing the earnestness and camaraderie of the show when it’s at its best. Special shout-out to Britannica’s gravity-defying hair, and Nalty’s fine light detail on her bangs. The characters around the GLOW ladies are also cartoonish, which helps cement the book’s locale and doesn’t undercut their emotional reality. The Netflix show leans hard on CTB lighting and filters, and it’s nice to see a bit more warmth as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are translated with care onto the page.
“GLOW” also flirts with some fun layout details. Templer plays with breaking the gutter and some fun panel styling in subtle ways, often going for one zany detail per page. Sheila’s pack scene in particular is touching, as it blends some humorous sound effects with silhouettes and Sheila’s trademark intensity. The otherwise regimented panel style and economical gutters help establish our setting in the “real” world, but Templer’s choices add that little surreal edge that blurs the line between what happens in the ring and the locker room. It’ll be interesting to see Templer in action in subsequent issues when there’s an actual match on the page.Continued below
Nalty’s colors are fun and help liven up a book jam-packed with a large cast. Solid backgrounds are lovely 80’s-style gradients, and Templer’s sound effects pop off the page in magenta, red and contrast blacks in Sheila’s wolf pack scene. Nalty expands the book’s palette with smart choices for each character’s wardrobe, which also helps differentiate them on the page, and there’s subtle and appropriate attention paid to each skin tone as well. The lack of texturing helps enhance Templer’s cartoony art rather than flattening it, and Nalty proves that you can do a lot with deceptively little to help a book’s tone stay light and engaging.
Miesner has a hard job to do in this comic, and pulls it off well. The font choice is nice and clean, and while balloon placement might seem easy because Templer uses a lot of flat backgrounds, Nalty’s color gradients make the white stand out even more. There’s also at minimum 2-3 characters per page who’re speaking, and with sound effects and quick action to contend with, lettering a comic like “GLOW” becomes a serious challenge. Miesner picks economical balloons with gentle, almost squared off edges, thin tails with minimal styling and as little padding as possible to help blend everything together.
“GLOW” #1 does predicate itself on familiarity with the Netflix series, but the book would be enjoyable as a stand-alone product. This issue is packed with heart, a keen sense of who these ladies are and the fun, freedom and vitality that comes with them making this incredibly strange and campy wrestling thing together. Howard and team could coast on our knowledge of the show after two seasons, but they choose to blend humor, quirky style and some good ol’ wrestling hijinks to make for a very entertaining and valuable read. Issue #1 ends on a great cliffhanger, and I’m entirely on board for how Wrestlefest unfolds in issue #2.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – “GLOW” #1 is a delightful tie-in with authentic character voices, expressive art, fun colors and competent lettering.