Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Holy Terror #1

The Holy Terror #1, August 2002, Image Comics
writer: Jason Caskey
penciller: Phil Hester
inker: Jim Woodyard
colorist: John Warren
letterer: Colin Wales

Every boy likes wrestling at some point during his childhood, even if only with a fleeting fascination. While some of my friends salivated at the sight of muscle-bound galoots like Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter, I watched from a distance, recognizing the real-life connection between this spectacle and the comic books I adored. Grown men in tights play fighting – yes, it’s a strong parallel. I just never thought about the two mediums colliding in a single event or story . . . but comic book and wrestling enthusiasts Jason Caskey and Phil Hester did. Furthermore, they made it happen. Now, I like chocolate and I like roast beef, but I never dream of combining the two into one delicacy, and a similar risk of potential distaste exists when any two things – no matter how good they are individually – are synthesized into one product. In this context, is The Holy Terror a success?

Based on my impression of this first issue, I would say so. Caskey establishes an engrossing world based on the physical strain resultant a lifetime in wrestling, layered with the aura of the supernatural – a demonic persistence that lingers even more so than the creators’ love for the subject matter they’ve selected. In the first act, a small town sheriff and a world-renowned warrior priest combat a werewolf agent of some hidden new world order uprising. Some miles away, a wrestler, the Holy Terror, apparently working toward the same evil agenda defeats a bear in the ring only to find himself unmasked and helpless at the hands of “Boneshaker” Crane. Twenty years later, Crane gives an up and coming wrestler the mask in the hopes of launching the whipper-snapper’s career, only to unwittingly condemn the kid with a collision course toward the same supernaturalism from two decades past. It’s a fun, simple story with interesting potential, and any reader could sense the creator’s excitement with the raw energy that exudes from every page.

Hester turns in some of his best work in this issue, as each panel is truly poster worthy. Caskey has given Hester’s art room to breathe, and although a splash or two would have been nice, this issue’s pacing is brisk enough to maintain even the most casual reader’s attention. Hester balances the physical brutality of wrestling with the mysterious undertones of macabre spirituality rather well, as does Caskey with his narrative and dialogue. Honestly, I don’t know if a purebred wrestling fan would dig the paranormal undertones, but that layer makes for good comic reading, which, based on Caskey’s supplemental essay, was his intention in the first place. A few Hester character designs make for a well-rounded package. Truly, this issue is its own best review.

You know, kids still love wrestling. In my years working with youth, the trend has shifted from WWE style superstars like Triple H to, most recently, Nacho Libre style Mexican wrestling. Again, I’m watching from a distance, understanding the appeal but not quite embracing it as my own. The Holy Terror may be the closest I ever get to sitting ringside. This issue was a pilgrimage into a realm of geekdom I otherwise would have actively avoided – that, frankly but appropriately, slightly terrifies me.

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