RECOMMENDED: "Vreckless Vrestlers"
- by Señor Editor, 23 May 2014
Vreckless Vrestlers is an interdimensional professional wrestling federation with only one rule – no rules! The leader of the federation, the enigmatic man known only as “The Manager”, possesses a device that lets him travel through time and space, collecting the fiercest and most powerful individuals to participate in the fighting matches. Now, these fights are transmitted via Łukasz Kowalczuk’s new comicbook series.
Kowalczuk is a Polish writer and cartoonist with quite a bit of experience on the local comicbook and zine scene, but as far as I know “Vreckless Vrestlers” is his first comic with international distribution. Since, as the comic reminds us, “Vrestlers fight, not chat!”, there are no dialogues here. There are text bits on the inside of the cover page, giving some background on the comic and the characters, and these are written in both Polish and English, but other than that it’s text-free. It’s all in the universal language of punching and kicking.
The #0 issue takes the time to set the stage for the VreVre championship. We meet the Manager, and follow him as he travels through space and time, snatching all sorts of different warriors. From the 1950s Virginia comes the stinking Flatwoods Monster; from Valkyrieville, Valhalla comes the bearded Valkyrie named Barbarica; from planet K-tze comes Vegan Cat; the 1960s Sevastopol, USSR is represented by two aquatic mutants: the Crimean Crab and The Eye. All in all, by the end of the issue we have all eight contestants present at the Vre Vre arena, ready to fight in the next 5 issues.
Łukasz Kowalczuk’s art is cartoony, but it’s a clean and very appealing style. The characters are very expressive (their moves and facial expressions are really great and add a lot to the comedy of Vreckless Vrestlers), well-defined and the art quality is consistent throughout the comic. The fight scenes (they begin in #1, more on that in a bit) are fun and imaginative, and the action is nicely rendered and has a very dynamic quality – something that’s definitely needed in a fighting book. The comic is either black & white (print version) or black, white & neon green (Comixology version). Both versions look good, and fit the art style well.
Even though there are no dialogues in “Vreckless”, Kowalczuk makes a clever use of the medium – whenever we need to know the gist of a character’s thoughts or speech, the word balloons are filled with a simple graphic representation of what’s being said/thought.
A huge part of the charm of “Vreckless Vrestlers” is the number of pop culture references present. Obviously, the main inspiration here is wrestling, but there’s a lot more here. Like I mentioned, the inside of the front cover usually features some info on the characters – these are done in the style of G.I. Joe file cards, complete with a dotted line around them, so they’re easier to clip out (don’t do that). The neon green of the digital version makes it hard not to think of the single-colored figures from the old M.U.S.C.L.E toy line. The Manager comes from the planet Excelsior. Whenever he arrives to pick up a vrestler, he’s surrounded by an energy that makes me think of the classic “Kirby crackle” effect. And is it just me, or is the one panel of Barbarica a reference to the old Angel Love panel that’s been making its rounds all around the comicbook internet…?
…Maybe it is just me. Whatever the case, there’s a lot of pop culture references here, is what I’m saying. All done with a very clear fondness for the stuff referenced.
Issue #1 is when we first see some Vrestling action: Vegan Cat fights the mysterious Flatwoods Monster and the two USSR mutants, The Eye and Crimean Crab. And it’s awesome. The former fight is full of surprises and some classic wrestling moves, while the latter is a bit of a tragic affair, since the Crab and Eye were best friends. When the Crab smashes the Eye’s deep sea helmet, he sees in the broken glass all the moments they spent together as friends – drinking vodka, fighting an octopus, playing football etc, and he hesitates. It’s funny, nicely done and it adds an extra layer to the fights. You will want to see it, trust me.
While both the digital and print versions are great, I went and bought a paper version of #0 after I got the digital review copy. You might want to do this, too (and there are links to all versions at the bottom of this article), because the print version has a lot of great bonus stuff going for it.
First off, the back covers of #0 feature hand-drawn, unique vrestlers from the Vre Vre Hall of Fame. There is obviously a limited number of these available, but this really adds to the collectability factor. The print comic is also done in a pretty unique, small A5 format, helping it stand out.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Issue #1 comes with a little sticker album and two stickers with Vrestlers. STICKERS! How f***in awesome is that?!? This is the sort of gimmick that would make roll my eyes if Marvel or DC did it, but with an independent DIY project like this comic, it shows how much effort went into it. That’s what I call going the extra mile. Another cool thing? Issue #1 features two “front” covers, each showing a different fight seen in the issue. It’s a little like the old “Marvel Comics Presents” comics, where you start from one end, get to the middle of the book, close it, flip the comic and read the other story, complete with its own cover. It’s good stuff.
So, to sum this long article up: “Vreckless Vrestlers” is a pretty great new series, with tons of stuff that will make you remember what you loved about comics as a kid. It’s chock-full of pop culture references, it’s visibly a labor of love, and the print version has STICKERS!!! Even my non-comicbook friends really dug it. Once you get it, you will be surprised how much you were missing it in your life. It’s the most fun comic I’ve read in a while, and that’s why it gets TM’s recommendation. Get it!
Visit Vrestlers.com for news, promo images, animated gifts and other great stuff! Like Vreckless Vrestlers on their official FB page here.
Vreckless Vrestlers #0 is available worldwide on Comixology right now, and #1 will probably be there soon! If you're in the US, you can buy print copies of issues #0 and #1 from the Strange Kids Club! And if you're in the UK, you can get #1 from Streets of Beige!