Ringside Vol. 1: Kayfabe: Writer Joe Keatinge and artist Nick barber
Image Comics’ Ringside might be better served in the hands of someone familiar with the history and lingo of professional wrestling, but the storytelling from Joe Keatinge makes me feel comfortable recommending Volume One of the trade paperback to any reader.
Keatinge gives us a story of one wrestler past his prime with a messed up back, and one of a young wrestler trying to break into the business and a Michael P.S. Hayes-esque traveling partner (a different old guy still in the big leagues). It’s damn fine storytelling as the three characters only cross paths once or twice very early on.
I do need to emphasize this fact:
Wrestling fans will absolutely fall in love with this story.
The attention to detail in wrestling lingo, history and realism is second to none. There is not another book out there like this.
As someone who grew up a wrestling nut, I feel for these two characters and even the young one. I also can’t help but mark out at reading the phrase “mark” in a comic book. The head bossman of CMW has this Internet Wrestling Community Vince McMahon feel to him.
The IWC loves to think of Vince as this directionless, stone cold, hardcore boss who hates the internet fans and “marks.” It makes this book feel just, so, right. It’s done beautifully from a backstage wrestling standpoint. Seriously, I’m talking about this book like it’s a wrestling one, but there’s hardly any wrestling.
It’s kind of a dark look at the business from two extremely opposite viewpoints.
One old-timer is faced with issues planted before his now faded away as the Minotaur (Dan) took off.
One “green” rook who just wants to make his way up the card or see his face on some merch and, of course, the old-timer still hanging on with the promotion but only on the house show/developmental circuit.
The turns this book takes by the end of the first issue (the trade paperback collects 1-5) is why I recommend it for any avid readers. The way Keatinge bounces between segments, scenes and viewpoints is impressive.
One moment we’re seeing Dan get beat into a bloody pulp, the next we see him about to stock up in Frank Castle fashion. This is an impressive story, not just for its connection to wrestling but in the way it morphs into a crime drama.
As for Barber’s art, I’m absolutely in love with the way he bounces between first meeting interactions scenes to the beef of the conversation. When Dan meets people, we basically only get two lines for closed eyes and a smile or frown.
It’s simple. Sets the mood before a word has said, and there is nothing I can do to give it justice. It’s different, but it works and that’s all that matters.
Rating: 8.5/10 This is one heck of a read from Issue 1 to 5. I highly recommend picking up this trade and catching up. This is the book that every comic-reading wrestling fan should have on their shelves. The lingo, insider feel and realism makes this a special read.