Written by Blair Butler and drawn by Kevin Mellon
Published by Image Comics
There are few things that I enjoy more than Mixed Martial Arts and comic books. The skills, courage and yes, heart, that are displayed by cage fighters match the epic struggles that I love in comic books. A great MMA fight is like a real life super hero showdown. It is a mystery to me why more comic fans are not into the sport. Maybe this book will help deliver them onto the path of awareness.
Blair Butler is an MMA fan. She has what might be the best job in the world as the MMA reporter and comics reviewer for G4’s Attack of the Show. More importantly for this story, she gets the sport. She gets the struggle, the training, the skills and the strength needed, how you can so easily lose and how being a big fish in your pond doesn’t stop you getting swallowed up in deeper waters. Even though you might not realise it, it’s not just about winning.- the lessons learned are far greater than that.
This is the story of Oren ‘Rooster’ Redmond. Inspired by seeing his brother fight he plucks up the courage to walk in the gym and get his arse kicked in training. Persevering, he enters the cage for real and finds a reason to give up the dull office job that he hates.
The creators do an excellent job of recreating the world of MMA. To introduce each fighter as they enter the cage they box up their stats, with height, weight, reach, win/loss ratio and the all-important walkout song. Its just like watching a UFC pay-per-view and seeing Rooster’s song change as his career develops is a lovely touch.
Mellon’s art had me hooked from the fifth page. Rooster goes for a flashy flying knee, as you turn the page, you see his opponent dodge and land a booming overhand right to the jaw. Mellon’s art has a scratchy kinetic sense – you can feel the punches and the thud on the canvas when someone is taken down. He has a great way of focusing on the details that matter to the story telling. Backgrounds will fade out, the main focus of a panel will be detailed but the other figures will just be silhouettes. I like how he varies his panels to focus on different aspects of the story: there are nine panel grids, lots of wide panels for in-the-cage action, then blowing out to full page shots at key moments.
Importantly, he also does a good job of drawing the Jiu-Jitsu. As a BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) practitioner myself, albeit a poor one, I appreciate the time he took in getting the positions right. There is a triangle set up in the first issue that is wicked, he manages to show movement and struggle while keeping the positions technically correct.
I love how he drew the sweet training montage below (the training scenes are always my favourites in martial arts movies). And the dude draws sweet speed lines.
It’s not all gung-ho fists, bullshit and bravado, there is a bitter sweet vein of reality that runs through this book. Butler and Mellon create a very believable character in Rooster and takes the story places that you don’t expect.
Should I buy it? If you have ever wondered about the appeal of MMA, Heart does a great job of explaining it. If you train or fight but don’t read comics this is still very worthwhile for a well-created snapshot of the fight game.
Next week: Inspired by reading three excellent books in a one week, I list my top five comics of 2012 so far. And in a continuing effort at pursuing diversity, I read and review some manga-the most excellent Pluto by Naoki Urasawa.