Written by: Joe Keatinge
Art by: Nick Barber & Simon Gough
If you’ve been a big fan of what Ringside has had to offer so far through seven issues, the waiting game has probably been excruciating for you like it was for me. After a few months away, Keatinge and Barber and the rest of the team have returned like a long-absent babyface re-entering the arena to the pop of the crowd. Issue #8 begins another run of monthly releases for the next several months if Image’s website is to be believed, which it typically is. With those promises in store for 2017, the latest issue indicates the masterful team at the helm will continue to deliver some of the medium’s best ongoing work.
Knossos, Davis, and Reynolds have by now each emerged as well-rounded main characters, and any one of them could lead an issue or a whole arc single-handedly. Knossos’ Breaking Bad-esque collapse into the criminal world is intriguing as ever in this issue. He seeks to play the role of a bad guy you don’t want to cross, but you can see he might be leaning on his in-ring performance more than he is comfortable with. He’s doing what he needs to do for the one he loves — it’s a timeless story — which is why it’s tragic that he’s being betrayed all the while.
Davis, meanwhile, is the image of what happens to a wrestler when they outlive their usefulness to the industry. He takes gigs where he can get them, clinging to any part of his persona that is recognizable. He seems more at ease with his growing irrelevance this time, as the issue opens with a lame event gone lamer and he just sort of takes it in stride. The retirement age pro wrestler is a sad stage to find yourself in for all but sports entertainment’s greatest faces. We see it endlessly in real life, too. Guys like The Rock and John Cena turn their face of the franchise image into branching show business careers, while the mid-carders deal with brain damage, broken bodies, and often more than a few vices.
Reynolds’ story has shown the most improvement over the past several issues, as he is now headlong in the industry and ready to showcase his talents… if it weren’t for the fact that he’s been relegated to nameless crony status. He remains hopeful in this issue, even as his in-ring partner calls him foolish and much too idealistic. He isn’t ready to be beaten by the industry that doesn’t usually care about the personal impact it has on people’s lives. He isn’t Davis. Issue #8 juxtaposes those two characters as well as any so far, and it does so subtly this time. Unlike before when Davis was (literally) showing Reynolds the ropes, now their stories have diverged, but the comparisons are still there to be drawn and their demeanor’s are so starkly opposite one another.
Not much more can be said for Ringside. I believe I said it best in my last review: it is increasingly redundant to even look at Ringside critically, as each issue has been amazing. The story, characters, and tone are all consistently well written, and if you handle the dreary art and even gloomier characters, Ringside is among the very best things you can read in comic form.