Longtime followers of The Revolution know that I rarely read and review Indie comics. It is not anything against Indie comics. There are plenty of well crafted Indie titles on the market. I simply stick largely with Marvel and DC because the super hero genre is the only genre that interests me when it comes to American comic books. For all other genres, I tend to stick with manga, novels and short stories.
Having said that, when Wrestlers In Space came across my radar I was immediately interested in this title. I am a huge fan of just about any form of pro wrestling. I certainly love Lucha Libre which is Mexican pro wrestling and can be currently found on El Rey Network in the form of the incredible TV show Lucha Underground. Lucha Underground is an amazing mixture of pro wrestling, grind house action and adventure as well as super hero styled characters. It is absolutely worth watching. I am also a massive Kinnikuman fan which is a manga franchise that has spawned various manga titles over the decades.
So, given my love for pro wrestling, comics books and Kinnikuman, there was just no way at all that I could pass on a comic book entitled Wrestlers In Space. This title is brought to us by Nathanael Hopkins-Smith who also writes the comic book entitled The Vagabond. You can find the Wrestlers In Space Facebook page here and their Kickstarter page here for more information about any upcoming projects.
I feel that it is only fair for me to make it known that when I review an Indie comic that I do grade on a curve. So my scores for an Indie comic are not on the same scale as my scores for a comic book from Marvel or DC. My reasoning for this is that Marvel and DC writers and artists are professionals who do nothing but work in the comic book industry. And they benefit from Marvel and DC’s professional editorial staff to help them. On the other hand, most Indie creators have “real” jobs to help pay the bills while they pursue their comic book career on the side. Also, Indie creators do not have the luxury of a professional editorial staff to help them with their comic books.
All right, with all of that out of the way, let’s hit Wrestlers In Space #1!
Words: Nathanael Hopkins-Smith
Art: Francesco “Prenzy” Chiappara
Colors: Simon A. Wright
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the main story, we learn the origin of the Matador. The Matador is Luthor Lobo. The Matador is incredibly successful and popular. He enjoys his fame and money by sleeping with as many women as possible. However, one woman that he sleeps with and then rudely ditches the next morning decides to get even. The woman visits her grandmother who also happens to have voodoo witch powers. The grandmother casts a spell that turns the Matador into a wolf-man styled creature. The Matador is shunned by his once adoring public. Luthor seeks shelter from the angry mob by seeking help from his bother, Loco Lobo. Loco is a luchadore. That is the end of the main story.
Words: Nathanael Hopkins-Smith
Art: Jim Smith
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
This six page back-up story gives the reader their first glimpse at our Wrestlers In Space roster of Loco Lobo, Luthor Lobo, Commander Columbus and Rami Rasheed. It is basically our four characters meeting each other for the first time. Commander Columbus and Rami Rasheed form one tag team and Loco Lobo and Luthor Lobo is the other tag team. We see some little grey aliens who owe a large alien gangster a large amount of money. The grey aliens promise to pay their debt as soon as possible. One of the aliens says that he has a plan for them to make some quick money. That plan involves them going to Earth. End of back-up story.
The Good: Wrestlers In Space #1 is a fun read. The main story is clearly the stronger of the two stories. But, that is to be expected when the back-up story only gets six pages to play with in order to tell its story. What surprised me the most about the main story is that it was a character piece. Upon starting Wrestlers In Space, I was expecting a comic that focused heavily on action and adventure. Instead, what I got was a main story that focused completely on the Matador’s personality and how he treated those around him and his view of the world. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It was just a surprise.
Another surprise is Wrestlers In Space #1 is an origin story of one of the four main characters. I would not have expected a solo issue spotlighting the origin of one of the four main characters with the debut issue. Normally, debut issues of a new title begin with the formation of the new team and then spend time exploring the backgrounds of the various roster members in subsequent issues. Again, this is not a bad thing. It is just different.
What made the unconventional start to this debut issue of a new title is how well Hopkins-Smith delivers this tale of the Matador. Hopkins-Smith absolutely nails the Matador’s character. The reader gets an excellent sense of the Matador’s character and his view of himself and those around him. The sense of privilege stemming from the Matador’s massive ego and incredible fame serve the character well by giving his fall at the end much more impact and meaning. I like how Hopkins-Smith writes the Matador differently than when the character transforms into a wolf-man and reverts back to his real name of Luthor Lobo. Hopkins-Smith does an excellent job contrasting the Matador with the monster Luthor Lobo to the point that they are nearly two completely different characters.
Hopkins-Smith also crafts some quality dialogue in the main story. The characters all have well-defined external voices. Obviously, the Matador has the most developed external voice. The good dialogue worked well with the great character work to make the Matador such a compelling and interesting character. I also like how Hopkins-Smith injected a nice sense of humor into the story. The humor is well placed but never goes too far and becomes over-the-top.
The main story of Wrestlers In Space #1 is well paced and plotted. Hopkins-Smith keeps the story focused and moving at a quick pace. The story never meanders nor does the main story feel decompressed. It is obvious to the reader that Hopkins-Smith has a clear direction in mind and moves the story along with a purpose.
Chiappara’s artwork in the main story was quite enjoyable. Chiappara has a unique style that gives Wrestlers In Space #1 a distinctive look. The few panels that had some action looked incredibly dynamic. My favorite page is when Luthor Lobo transformed into his wolf man form. That art was crackling with energy and gave off a cool Jack Kirby styled vibe. Chiappara certainly can handle dialogue heavy scenes with skill. It will be exciting to see Chiappara get to show off his artistic chops on a more action heavy story. To be sure, Chiappara brought plenty of energy and emotion to the story.
Jim Smith did a solid job with the artwork in the back-up story. Smith’s art is more cartoonish and reminds me more of artwork seen in web comic strips. Smith’s art is not as distinctive or as brash as Chiappara’s artwork which made following Chiappara such a tough task.
The Bad: I only had two real criticism with the main story in this issue. The first was with the scene transitions. The scene rolled into each other in a clunky fashion. The reader is whipped forward from scene to scene with little warning which made for a bit of a bumpy ride. Smoother transitions would have prevented the main story from feeling like all the various scenes were compressed together. There were moments where characters would advance great distances in between panels.
Wrestlers In Space #1 was very light on action and adventure. This issue was also light on the pro wrestling theme. In fact, the only Lucha Libre flavor that we get in this issue is a couple of pages in the six page back-up story. A more traditional approach of introducing the readers to our team of wrestlers and giving us a flavor of their setting and their team’s mission statement would have made selling this debut issue easier to readers. And, a larger helping of action and adventure would have been more in keeping with the theme of this title and better met reader’s expectations.
Overall: Wrestlers In Space #1 was a solid debut issue. Hopkins-Smith and Chiappara are a very capable creative team with lots of potential. I believe that Wrestlers In Space #1 is just scratching the surface of what Hopkins-Smith and Chiappara are clearly capable of delivering. I love the concept for Wrestlers In Space and I am intrigued by the roster of wrestlers. The excellent character work in this issue gives me confidence that the three other wrestlers on this team will be just as interesting and as well-developed as Luthor Lobo. I am certainly looking forward to more issues of Wrestlers In Space.