One of my absolute favourite comics of recent years, Ringside shines a spotlight on the seedy underbelly of the wrestling business, exposing how it chews up and spits out its talent – leaving them to flounder awkwardly out in the real world. Though not claiming to be based on any real life situations or people, it’s hard not to see the series as a realistic peek behind the curtain of the wrestling industry.

The first issue follows Danny Knossos, an ex-superstar who’s burned all of his bridges and is heading back to the States from Japan, in an attempt to help his ex-boyfriend out of what sounds like serious trouble. Though he catches up with some old friends – veteran wrestler Davis, who’s still employed in the industry, for one – and new acquaintances, not all of the welcomes he has are particularly warm, to say the least. It seems like Teddy’s trouble really is serious – seeing as the mysterious Eduard sends a gang of thugs to kick the shit out of Danny; a warning to keep out of whatever it is that’s going on.

The second issue sees a stubborn Danny, having been beaten to a pulp, looking for revenge – but a reality check from one of his best friends, disabled ex-Marine Amy, steers him towards the hospital instead. It’s not long, however, before he decides to resume his search for Eduard – despite the devastatingly violent consequences he’s already suffered for poking around. Meanwhile, the higher ups at Champion Max Wrestling, Inc., have noted Danny’s return – and are threatening Davis with his job if he’s seen interacting with the ex-wrestler again.

Once again, the story and art are next to perfect in this issue of Ringside, continuing brilliantly from the shocking events of the first issue.

It reads like a great ensemble crime show; though Danny is essentially the focus of the story, the characters in and around his orbit are all pretty compelling and well-sketched too, despite limited screen time. Nick Barber’s art and Simon Gough’s colouring is used to wonderful effect in a chase sequence, with frames-in-frames and specific colouring in certain sections doing a great job of helping the reader to focus on points of action in one memorable chase sequence.

Once again, there’s a pretty damn compelling cliffhanger that’ll hopefully bring you back for more; it’s criminal that more people aren’t aware of this excellent series. Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, if you enjoy such shows as Breaking Bad or The Wire, you should find an awful lot to like in the pages of Ringside, which goes to great lengths to feel gritty, realistic and dramatic – and succeeds in just about every area.

You can read the first issue of Ringside for free online at Image Comics here.

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