Danny’s post wrestling life continues to get more complicated and violent in “Ringside” #2. Read on for review but be warned, there are some spoilers.
Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated Nick Barber
Fact vs. Fiction
Professional wrestling is something I’ve loved since before I liked comics. I was a kid during the time The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker were Gods among men. I grew up during “The Attitude Era” that gave way to the internet era when all the secrets of wrestling became more and more commonplace information. The “dirt sheets” let us know who doesn’t like who, who’s going to get a “push” and those in power have problems with. Along with this, autobiographies and podcasts have shone a light on the post wrestling lives of many performers and in the case of someone like CM Punk, it’s created a change in how many fans view the business side of things. It’s in this space that “Ringside” exists and that’s what makes this follow up to the stellar debut flat out great.
“Ringside” #2 picks up right where “Ringside” #1 ended with Danny ready to take Amy’s guns to go find his ex-boyfriend. Amy however is not having it. She’s not a gun owner who’s willing to just let him go on a rampage. She is responsible and not only has licenses for her weapons, but still trains once a week. After going to the hospital to get his injuries looked at, he finds a new way to get what he wants. Meanwhile Davis is dealing with his perceived insubordination by having dinner with Danny.
There are a few very good wrestling comics out there right now. “Headlocked Comics” and “For The Title” are two examples of purely wrestling comics that feature big characters and bigger action. “Ringside” is something completely different. Joe Keatinge and Nick Barber are not so concerned with their characters delivering promos. They’re telling a story that can at times be described as crime noir that also deals with aging and happens to take place in the world of professional wrestling. “Ringside” is not a comic just for wrestling fans, as there is a whole lot here for those unfamiliar with the sport to enjoy.
This issue does an even better job at balancing the two big narratives than the first issue did. Danny is a man of a mission who isn’t completely idiotic. He does something at the end that puts someone else at risk but not in the same way that his action almost affected Amy. Keatinge also weaves him Danny’s wrestling background in the hospital scene that puts things into more perspective. We may never see Danny wrestle in the past of the future of the story’s events but we don’t have to. What I like most about these early days of “Ringside” is that there really aren’t stereotypes. Each of the former wrestlers we’ve met have something different going for them. Danny is gay and no one makes an issue of it which is extremely refreshing to see but also not all that surprising given the changing views in wrestling. The WWE for example has taken part in the NO H8 campaign and Darren Young, a current wrestler, is openly gay. Amy has a huge personality and the friendship between her and Danny has been cemented as something very strong very early on. Keatinge writes her the best in this issue with a personality bigger than any wrestler’s couple possibly be.
“Ringside” #2’s strongest moment though is the conversation that Davis has with Kristiansen. That moment is incredibly timely to what’s been happening in professional wrestling now and what has happened in the past. Danny is basically black listed. He can’t be mentioned, he can’t be talked to and for all intents and purposes, he no longer exists in this promotion in any capacity. This has happened with a very few select performers in the past but again I am reminded of CM Punk in this instance. You don’t see him with other, currently active members of the WWE roster because after his podcast appearance on Colt Cabana’s show, he ended up being “erased”. This whole interaction acts as a great mirror to reality but also has enough emotional drama behind it to make it easily understandable for anyone and furthermore, it sets up some great potential conflict down the road.Continued below
Nick Barber’s art took a little time to grow on me. I will admit, I wasn’t really into much of the art in the first issue but with “Ringside” #2 the story opens up more and I get why Barber’s style fits this story. This isn’t a wrestling comic only – it’s got other elements that I’ve mentioned earlier. Barber is excellent at creating scenery and character interactions. I love the multiple use of close ups during dialogue heavy scenes. Amy’s speech, for example, is made much more dramatic this way. The phone call between Davis and Kristiansen is given the same effect. Barber is very good at making his characters feel something and these close ups are detailed and each panel features a distinctly different expression than the first. Many artists have used this before to cut down on work but Barber actually does something important and useful as far as storytelling is concerned. There are some wonderful minimalist expressions in wider scenes that add a sort of comical effect to a story that could easily get very dark. It kind of reflects what wrestling is in many ways by doing this.
Barber infuses a wrestling spirit within every page of this book. The later scenes with Danny and the bounty hunter have a ton of movement but not in a conventional sense. Even a thrown punch has this wrestling over the top quality to it with sound effects and heightened colors by Simon Gough. Gough layers the colors just right in accordance to Barber’s pencils that keeps things from feeling overly flat. I especially like how he intensifies the colors according to the character’s reactions. The shadowing is very well done and he gives Barber’s art just the right amount of extra depth.
“Ringside” #2 is still very young but I’m rooting for it. Maybe in time I’ll even mark out for it.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – Another solid outing for the not wrestling, wrestling comic.