“Galileo. Copernicus. Halley. History’s greatest astronomers have contemplated the night’s sky while pondering the question that has perplexed mankind throughout the ages–’is there life out there…and can it wrestle?’”
That line from the last issue of Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia made me laugh out loud, and it explains the sense of humor found in this great comedy 6-issues comic book by Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin. The premise is ludicrous yet fantastic: Rory Landell, a heel pro wrestler, is told by his promoter that he won’t win the championship belt at the big show. He gets mad, and improvises on camera and declares that he is too big for the AWF World Heavyweight title since he is the Galactic Champion of the Universe, and leaves the promotion. 15 years later, footage of that promo arrives in space to Planet Wrestletopia, and the Galactic champion of that planet, Manifest Destiny, decides to invade Earth and wrestle Rory Landell to prove that he is the only Galactic Champion of the Universe. If Rory loses, Earth will belong to Manifest Destiny and he will become the official Galactic Champion of the Universe.
The premise might either sound like it’s making fun of pro wrestling or like a silly sketch, but that’s not what’s happening here. There’s action, sweet moments, love, heartbreak, lots of wrestlings with lots of gimmicks, and at the end of each issue has really cool retro illustrations from the past.
You can see that the creators love pro wrestling, specifically 80’s WWF and territory pro wrestling. The story has the beats of some of the storylines that you find in 80’s WWF programming, but with the sci-fi and comedy elements. Underneath the comedy, concepts, and pro wrestling, there are touching moments that prove that these characters have a heart.
The main character is Rory Landell, a rocking wrestler that loves to rhyme in his promos. After leaving the AWF as the Galactic Champion of the Universe, he spent 15 years touring the indies and being kicked out of all the shows due to his attitude and general drunkenness. He is accompanied by his manager Don Fong Gong, a Hawaiian doing a Japanese gimmick. Other characters are the evil owner of the AWF, Mr. Draisin, who makes a deal with one of the invading aliens, and Rory’s girlfriend Spanish Rose, who got her career damaged after Rory left the territory. Other wrestling characters are the babyface champion “Boy Scout”, a literal wrestling bear called Kodiak Jack, and Cousin Orville, a Hillbilly Jim-inspired wrestler. The wrestling aliens from Planet Wrestletopia have their own distinct and cool look, with most of them wearing masks.
This is another really cool facet of this comic book, which is the art. I love the design of the wrestlers and the backgrounds. The main characters have a lot of details and I love how they were drawn to show 15 years of change. What makes the art in the book even cooler is all of the details of the wrestlers in the background, especially the alien ones. Wrestling moves are well done. The last issue, which is the wrestling match of Rory Landell vs Manifest Destiny for Earth’s fate, is one of the best illustrations I have seen of how a pro wrestling match works, with details on the moves and the psychology. The writers and artists clearly watched a lot of wrestling and are fans. There is even a commentary table with its own Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura with really funny banter.
What is great about this book is that inside all of the comedy, art, and ludicrous storyline, it has a lot of heart, some of it subtle, like Rory’s relationship with his parents. Most importantly, as a wrestling fan, I love that they treated wrestling with respect.
Pro wrestling is not only the vehicle to tell the story, but it does not make fun of it. It clearly respects it since it knows the beats of a pro wrestling match and storyline structure. The over the top characters are clearly parodies of pro wrestlers of the past and in a way honors them. Pro wrestling is not the comedy, but the events surrounding it is where the comedy lies. There are references to screwjobs, territories, pro wrestlers in the past partying and younger wrestlers being gamers, and the big event at the end is at the St. Paul Sportatorium.
If you love comic books and want to read something new, this is really cool and worth it. This comic book series will have you smiling from beginning to end, and you don’t have to worry about following a long series since it is 6-issues long. If you give it a chance, you will laugh and have a good time.