Written by: Joe Keatinge
Art by: Nick Barber
At some point the comic community is going to have to give up on bothering to look at Ringside with a critical eye. It’s starting to seem like there’s little point in doing so. Every issue has been a detailed, intense, dire, and deeply engrossing look into the broken lives behind in-ring personas, once superstars, now limping shadows of themselves. Every issue has been well worth the time of wrestling fans and comic readers alike, and a dream come true for anyone in the middle of that Venn diagram. Issue #7 continues that amazing track record, of course.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about the latest issue is how it hardly follows protagonist Danny Knossos at all and remains interesting without him. We catch up with the former Minotaur briefly in yet another glum and foreboding scene, but besides that we mostly follow the secondary characters, and at that, Reynolds in particular. A lot more of the behind-the-scenes drama unfolds too, and it is once again evident that Keatinge is writing from both a place of respect and deep knowledge.
How Creative handles new personas, developing story-lines, and plays politics to pit talent against each other backstage as well as in front of the crowd all rings true for those who follow the “sports entertainment” world. It seems those who play nice with higher-ups can often get the push all wrestlers crave, and Reynolds finds himself at the onset of what could be a break for him. My favorite moments so far have typically been the Breaking Bad-esque crime drama threads, but as a wrestling fan I also love these Reynolds-heavy scenes that show us the frequently cutthroat nature of show business. Ringside is weaving several story-lines right now, and not one of them is unappealing.
Barber’s lighter touch on the details for his characters, especially when they’re at a distance, feels like a perfect fit for the dreary hope-in-the-rear-view-mirror tone of the narrative. Most characters are trying to get back on their feet, but there’s so much weighing them down. Reynolds remains the lone optimistic character residing on the bottom of the food chain, which surely spells doom for him in months and years ahead for the series. This is a story of haves versus have-nots, and what happens when you go from the former to the latter as an individual.
My pull list isn’t long enough for me to really feel comfortable calling Ringside the best comic book going right now, but I would be surprised if I discovered something better existed. As for issue #8 and those beyond, I have to remind myself that surprise is no longer a valid reaction. Keatinge and Barber are putting on a masterclass on how to write and draw a comic book. At this point any missteps they suffer in the future will likely be few and far between exceptions to the rule.