Ringside Volume One: Kayfabe by Joe Keatinge and Nick Barber. Image, 2016. 9781632156952. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Contains issues #1 – #5 of the series.

Daniel Knossos was once known in the wrestling ring as Minotaur, but now he trains up-and-coming wrestlers at a school in Japan. Otherwise he wants nothing to do with his former fame. As the book opens he’s starting a trip home to the US on very personal business — trying to locate his former boyfriend, Teddy, who called him for help. But finding Teddy is tough, and Knossos needs the help of a very smart guy who works for his friend Andre’s bail bond office.

What’s amazing is that the few images of wrestling in the book are spectacular and absolutely left me wanting more, and the creative team holds back. Instead they use them as a backdrop, creating a contrast between choreographed and regular world violence, making the latter realistically horrific. (Ever been hit with a pipe wrench? Me, either. Let’s keep it that way.) They build the characters of Knossos and his friends, creating a story with emotional resonance in which being a tough guy charging at a problem is clearly not the best approach. And if you’re a fan of wrestling there’s a lot here for you, too — a look behind the scenes at the business courtesy a friend of Knossos’ who is still in the ring, and the green young wrestler he’s on the road with.

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