GLOW #4 – Comic Review

IDW’s GLOW tie-in series wraps up its first arc in predictable yet immensely satisfying style.

Note: this review originally ran at Set the Tape (link).

GLOW returns to Netflix screens this week and, right on queue, IDW’s first run of their GLOW tie-in comic – realised by writer Tini Howard, artist Hannah Templer, and colourist Rebecca Nalty – wraps up with the big exhibition series between the Gorgeous Ladies and the Star Primas.  When we last left our ladies, some real headway had been made in their opposing points of view, with the Primas receptive to the idea of doing some honest-to-God character work and beginning to respect their less-experienced ring-partners, whilst the Gorgeous Ladies were all set and excited to job with grace and pride.  And whilst there are some lingering frustrations and resentment from both sides to perfunctorily speed through before the show begins, things ultimately wrap up in predictable yet satisfying fashion.

Anyone who watches enough wrestling may be bracing themselves for an unnecessary swerve given just how to-the-panel events end up unfolding across Issue #4, but Howard could give the WWE and Ring of Honor writers’ rooms a thoroughly necessary lesson or two in how sticking to the telegraphed outcome no matter how many viewers (or readers in this case) have called it in advance doesn’t matter if it’s emotionally resonant and executed strongly enough.  Howard really leans on the female solidarity angle for her conclusion, both in Ruth’s big speech to the GLOW girls prior to the show as she solidifies her position as respected team coach and in the group’s interactions with the Primas during and post-match, in a manner which is legitimately inspiring and fuzzy-feeling.  Particularly since it’s an inspiration born from a perceptive eye about the nature of the wrestling business, the admission that women operating within a typically-perceived male-dominated entertainment field will end up forcibly lumped-together no matter what and it’s better to work together through it rather than go into business for oneself, which couches these moments in substance rather empty idealism.

©IDW, 2019.

Plus, it also facilitates a bunch of fun little character exchanges and scene-stealing lines from otherwise less-spotlighted players of the cast and that’s always good.  More than any other entry in the series so far, GLOW #4 is an ensemble issue with no one cast member overriding the issue’s screen time.  Ruth may still be the relative centre of the piece, befitting her transformation into the glue holding the team together, but almost everyone else gets the chance to take a brief bit of centre-stage to wrap up their story arcs, most notably Jenny’s quest to get onto the card with a vintage hardcore wrestling spot she’s not entirely certain she can do.  It really reinforces the solidarity theme driving both the comic and GLOW as a multimedia franchise, as well as demonstrating just how many scene-stealers GLOW has tucked away in its back pocket for just such an occasion – Yolanda, Sheila, and Rhonda all get brief but instantly memorable beats this go-around.

Over the course of the last four months, Howard, Templer and Nalty’s GLOW comics have successfully managed to make the leap from a welcome companion piece to the Netflix series they’re based on to an extremely high-quality standalone work that’s absolutely worth checking out in its own right.  Invoking the spirit of the show but finding its own slants and takes on the industry for it to stand apart as its own interpretation.  In Howard’s insightful fan’s eye for the pro-wrestling industry and strong balancing of a large ensemble, Templer’s smooth and sketchy splash art that trades physical impact for emotional impact (the right call), and Nalty’s warm and glittering colours.  This first arc has been a joy to read and I can only hope that, much like with the TV show – since this is apparently something Netflix have decided I specifically need to be worrying about now – the team’s bosses agree to give the people more of what they want as soon as possible.  Or, if not, that the creatives at least get to go out with a full Ric Flair “FIRE ME?!  I’M ALREADY FIRED!” rant.

Callum Petch been tryin’ to meet you.

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