While anticipation is growing for the third series of GLOW from Netflix, the void is being filled by IDW Publishing and their new monthly comic. Featuring all of the characters from the hit T.V. series, the creators are attempting to capture the essence of the show that made it a success.
Believing that they have a free weekend coming up, The Glorious Ladies Of Wrestling begin to plan their relaxing break. That is until Sam Sylvia wrecks their plans with the announcement of a weekend of wrestling at Wrestlefest: a wrestler’s convention with exhibition matches featuring the cream of the crop.
It may appear like a perfect opportunity to showcase what they can do but there will be a cost. And that’s even before they get on the tour bus.
Not a new comer to wrestling stories, Tini Howard has written for a number of Boom! Studios’ WWE comics. With the first issue of GLOW she has created a storyline which deliberately highlights each character in succession in order to remind the reader who is who or introduce them to people new to GLOW. This works like a double edged sword; working well by bringing the readers up to speed on each character, jogging the memory since series 2 dropped; however, it also reduces the cast to caricatures.
Each character appears defined by a single trait which sums up who they are. This is a touch derivative especially as the Netflix show strived to do the complete opposite. This is only the first issue so there is plenty of time for the characters to emerge however this approach could be off putting to fans of the show.
Apart from the lack of character, the story itself does its job. An obstacle is placed in the ladies’ way which they have to overcome. This allows Howard to focus on each character in turn to define who they are for the reader while also setting up future conflict and drama. The consequences of Ruth having an office key and Carmen’s fears of running into ‘real’ wrestlers are threads of the narrative left open for future issues. Howard feeds the background story lines into the main narrative in a subtle and satisfying way. They do not detract from the obvious drama but they bulk out the narrative for an improved reading experience.
The most challenging aspect of the comic for fans of the GLOW T.V. show will be getting used to the art work by Hannah Templer. She has a wonderful expressionistic style which is very emotive. Her figure work expresses character traits and emphasises the performance aspect of the story. Each of cast is a physical representation of the characteristics displayed in the narrative.
However, the simplified style and reliance on over the top gestures is a contrast to the harsh realities depicted in the show. On the surface GLOW has this larger than life, fun appearance but there are dark undertones throughout the storylines that are not reflected anywhere in this comic. Templar’s art captures the fun element and is packed with quirky humour but the darker tones are lost or fall flat.
Sam’s character suffers the most in this comic. His vicious sarcasm and emotionally disturbed cruelty is lost in the cartoonish punchlines and cute visuals. He is depicted more like someone’s grumpy father rather than someone the women should be challenging. An underhand joke about lap dancing is almost brushed off with a childish stomp and fire symbol bursting from Yolanda’s head. Challenging chauvinistic attitudes is one of the major themes in GLOW so to see it passed over so lightly feels like an opportunity missed.
Rebecca Nalty uses flat, blocks of color with little shading. This produces a layered effect to the panels providing definition between the backgrounds and characters. The bright colored background splashes, with no background detail, have become a popular style in recent years, especially with Boom! Studios’ teenage sports comics. Nalty makes it work by generally complementing the colors in a panel but occasionally throwing in a contrasting hue so that the moment is emphasised.
Christa Miesner employs comical sound effects throughout the pages of GLOW. On a humour level these work successfully, especially during the orchestrated fight scenes. There is nothing outstanding about the rest of the lettering. This is both a compliment and a criticism. The speech balloons are placed on the page to help the readers flow from panel to panel but there isn’t enough emphasis in the text itself. There is little direction for the reader towards tone in individual voices. This in turn makes speech heavy pages a hardship to read as there is no distinction between the characters.
GLOW is an enjoyable, young adult, sports comic along the lines of SLAM! or Dodge City from Boom! Studios. However, for fans of the T.V. show this reads like a watered down adaption. It lacks the constant struggle that the characters go through, merging the wrestling ‘in show’ theatrics with the all to disturbing real life problems.
This first issue is best described as twee. It’s as if the creators have viewed the show through rose tinted glasses and picked up on the jovial nature of it but leaving any darkness behind. As a story in its own right, the comic GLOW has a place and will find an audience. It is fun and slightly risqué but so far lacks the depth of the source material.