Wrestling & comics have always seemed like they should work perfectly together. Both have spandex, inhuman builds and super human acts with over the top story lines. So what have we got in the past when the two have combined? How about the horrible WCW series from Marvel Comics in the early 90’s, or the somehow even worse series Warrior comic? WWE had some poor books from Chaos Comics in the Attitude Era, and actually had maybe the worst series of all in WWE Heroes and it’s Undertaker spin off just a couple of years ago. Amazingly, the best wrestling comic of all may have been in the pages of Marvel Comic’s The Thing in the mid 80’s when Ben Grimm was Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation Champion, and that was hardly excellent.
Enter Swerve, a new independent comic book mini-series from writer Jon Judy and artist Dexter Wee published by Arcana Press.
This isn’t your father’s wrestling comic book. Swerve is gritty, even brutal at times. Pulling no punches to show the world the characters inhabit as Texas territorial wrestlers in the 70’s who moonlight in the seedy underground of criminal activity this is certainly not a book for the squeamish, but that’s what’s needed to convey the story.
Dexter Wee does a fine job conveying the hardcore aspects of the tale with his art, maintaining a clean realistic style while still giving a sense of the grimy environment that Swerve lives in. A particular good job is done in the character design and facial expressions, and he gives a sense of danger to the situations presented.
Swerve evolves as the story goes on, moving away from the wrestling aspect being an integral part of what’s happening and more into a crime drama. Jon Judy though is obviously very studied in the understandings of the world of wrestling and the peculiar psychology that occurs both in the ring and in the politics played backstage.
Some wrestling fans may not be pleased with how the wrestlers and promoters themselves come across, and how it may reflect those they follow and respect. This is driven home even more by the seeming real life influence of some of the characters, but it must be kept in mind this is more a crime thriller set in a wrestling world, than a wrestling story with crime aspects. As well this is what gives the descent of the lead character Eric Layton from good intentions to a life of violence even more harrowing to see, but I do believe this plot point is not always given the attention it deserved throughout the entire series.
The pacing is largely the biggest issue I had while reading Swerve. Not so much in the page to page story telling, as that, largely helped by good dialogue, was fine, but in the time period and amounts of events the story is told in. Ultimately I felt as though many good moments weren’t explored just due to time constraints, and that I found it difficult to believe the story takes place in the time frame it does. Essentially it’s critique that the story that Judy & Wee are trying to tell needed to be much longer to do it full justice, but I suppose in saying I wanted more that is not the worst thing they could hear.
I don’t think I’m spoiling any surprises by saying that a story called Swerve contains, well, many swerves. How much you ultimately enjoy the series may be dependent on if you buy into the logic of these story shifts and surprises, or if you feel they don’t work. In wrestling a swerve for the sake of a swerve instead of as an angle to maximize the interest of the audience is always a failure, and something that must be avoided in a comic like this as well. Whether or not John Judy & Dexter Wee succeed in this I really up to you as an individual reader, but one thing that cannot be questioned is the passion the creators put into the project, and it’s definitely worth a look from you.
You can check out more about Swerve over at http://www.comixology.com/Swerve/comics-series/9136 or http://www.arcana.com/view_issue.php?id=492