Over The Ropes #1

A young high-flyer named Jason Lynn goes off-script in a match to win the world title and sets the southern territory on fire as the face-painted wrestler, Phoenix. Jason’s battles between the ropes are only outperformed by his struggles outside the ring. First dates. Crooked promoters. Cage matches. Factions and families. No matter what problems smack him with a steel chair, Jason lives by his catchphrase: I. Will. Rise.

Solicitation for OTT #1

STORY – Jay Sandlin
ART – Antonello Cosentino
COLORS – Francesco Segala
LETTERS – Justin Birch

Full disclosure: I’m a wrestle-head. I grew up on 6:05pm EST on TBS watching World Championship Wrestling. The NWA and later WCW featured megastars like Sting, Flair, The Horsemen, Road Warriors, The Russians, The Rock N Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and so many more. I was a kiddo during the heyday of the 80’s wrestling boom and then was the perfect age for the 90’s explosion. I was ecstatic upon hearing the announcement of this book.

Sure, there have been several comics featuring pro wrestling and there are ones currently on the shelves. This one though, is different. Over the Ropes from Mad Cave is written by Jay Sandlin. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to know him a bit through social media over the last 18 months or so. In this time we’ve had several conversations about pro wrestling. Jay is a fan. This is huge in regard to the fact that he’s writing this comic about pro wrestling. He understands what makes pro wrestling entertaining … and what makes it magical. In the press release through Newsarama Jay stated “The characters grew out of my desire to write the kind of wrestling story I gravitated to the most; where the predetermined nature of in-ring action and backstage drama blends with shades of reality until the two are indistinguishable.” The main story line of OTT follows Jason Lynn (a play on a highly popular 90s wrestler) who is a curtain jerking jobber (guy that opens shows and loses to the big names). The in ring and real life persons start to merge as the chosen one of the promotion Lynn works for gets himself beaten out of the title picture, literally.

In a perfect marriage of Kayfabe (the portrayal of both real and staged events as being real) and real life, our underdog hero gets the opportunity of a life time. There’s a big issue though. See, the owner of the promotion is the reigning champion and he’s been grooming his son as the hotshot boiling over to challenge and eventually take him down. The whole plot line borrows from real instances that played out during the 80s and 90s pro wrestling scene. For wrestling fans it is an absolute treat. Comic fans will appreciate the person behind the persona story line. Jason is the low man on the totem pole and doesn’t gain from the nepotism coursing through his biggest personal (but not professional) rival. As the persona becomes too much for Billy Raddison (the champ’s son and next in line) to handle outside of the confines of the wrestling ring he finds himself on the end of a real life ass kicking. This tosses a huge wrench in the plans. Jason Lynn finds himself being given the silver platter but with a huge catch.

Being told that you’re going to be the champion is undoubtedly the pinnacle of a pro wrestler’s career. Everything you’ve done has been noticed and the promotion feels that not only have you earned the chance, but that the business will be better with you as the face. It’s got to be just as big of a gut punch though if you’re told you’ll be champion … but not as you. This is exactly what happens to Jason. See, our hero isn’t the only one with a huge opportunity. The SFW (the wrestling promotion in Over the Ropes) is sitting on the cusp of a huge deal with a major TV Network. Just as Jason’s opportunity comes with a catch, so does the SFW’s. The network wants a new face as champion. It’s a situation that has to be acted on for the promotion to step into the limelight. With this knowledge the plan is hatched and Jason looks to make his move. Going off-script he jumps on the opportunity and takes flight.

With the inner workings of pro wrestling serving as the backdrop for this book to draw from I can’t wait to see just which dusty road we go down. Both Jason and the promotion are set up and in precarious positions. The entirety of the situation is tenuous at best and danger is now lurking around every corner. Hidden behind the references and nods to pro wrestling tradition (such as a Luchadore that wears his mask at all times) is a carefully curated personal story. As a wrestle-head I am well served with this book and get plenty of feel good moments/bits. What I do feel though, is that the casual, merely familiar, or not hip at all to wrestling comic reader won’t be able to connect as much to this book. There is a decent amount of nuance that they’ll blank on because they simply don’t know. The perfect example of this is Jason’s outfit on his date. This book is done well and the real life subject matter it borrows from is wonderfully infused and alluded too. However, there’s going to be a good chunk of folks that simply miss out on that and don’t know how well this is done. The effectiveness and execution of this title simply won’t be recognized by many comic readers, and that’s a shame.

Beyond Sandlin’s scripting, Cosetino delivers fantastic visuals. The artwork is excellent and captures the look and feel of what the title is portraying. Segala’s coloring matches the lines. Only thing I’d have liked more would have been a little more dynamic approach to the wrestling personas and scenes. Part of the appeal of pro wrestling is that it is larger than life. I’m not digging on the colors from Segala mind you. I just feel that there is a missed opportunity to enhance the book here. The same goes for the lettering. Birch is very good. You don’t get in the Ringo convo and letter books for literally more than a handful of publishers if you aren’t. As with the colors though, I feel there was some missed opportunity given the subject matter. Bottom line is that this is a very good debut that does more than a little justice to its source matter. There is a solid premise set up and I’m eagerly awaiting what this series brings. I just wish that everyone picking it up would “get it” as much as I have.

IN SHOPS NCBD DEC 4th!

Driving Creators grade for Over the Ropes #1: 9.2

The heart and soul of pro wrestling is evident in this book. Jay knows what makes it tick and what makes it relatable. Being a fan of the sport gives Jay the ability to create things within the comic that other writers couldn’t but it is also a slight alienating factor as well. The book’s effectiveness does rely on a certain level of interest/understanding of the reader. While slightly limiting, if it is the biggest thing working against the title then this will be a great series.

STORY: ***
ART: ****
COLORS: ***
LETTERS: ****
OVERALL: 3.5*

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