There’s a few surefire ways to get me to read a new comic book. First, if the comic is written and/or illustrated by someone I’m a fan of, like Jeff Lemire or Daniel Warren Johnson. Second, if the comic is of a character I adore, like Swamp Thing or John Constantine. Third, if the comic isn’t created by someone I already know, and it’s not about a character I love, it had better be about professional wrestling, and that is why I started to read The Gimmick, written by Joanne Starer, illustrated by Elena Gogou, and published by Ahoy Comics

The synopsis of the first issue of The Gimmick sounded enticing: “Pro wrestling champ Shane Bryant’s ring persona—his gimmick—is forgettable … But his secret is more colorful … And when he punches a fist straight through his opponent’s brain … everything changes.” But the cover by Erica Henderson, is what really grabbed my attention. I’m a sucker for great covers. 

The Gimmick issue 1 cover 

Luckily, the first issue of The Gimmick meets the expectations set by the synopsis, and the wonderful cover. Spoilers ahead, but to quote the summary at the start of issue two, “Good-guy pro wrestler Shane Bryant’s secret—super-strength—is revealed to the world when he angrily drives his fist all the way through his racist opponent’s head during a nationally televised match. Now Shane is on the lam for murder, and some lives he’s touched closely are beginning to feel the awful consequences.” 

The Gimmick issue 2 cover

Over the next few issues of The Gimmick, the reader is introduced to Shane’s ex, semi-retired pro wrestler Alicia, who is the mother of Sam’s super powered baby, as well as Sam, the daughter of the racist wrestler Sam accidentally murdered on live television. Sam follows Shane down to Mexico, where he adopts a generic new luchador gimmick, but she doesn’t realize the masked wrestler is her father’s killer, and she befriends him after accidentally shooting Shane’s friend, a ring veteran who goes by the moniker General Tso.

The Gimmick issue 3 cover 

Storer has some fun with the often stereotypical gimmicks foisted upon professional wrestlers. General Tso is actually Japanese and the Nazi wrestler Shane accidentally kills is portrayed by a Mexican man, although it is stated his racism is not an act. There’s a few nods to real life wrestlers, and wrestling, as well, such as the FBI agent named Dwayne Johnson, and the location where the various plotlines come to a head is at a WrestleCon event in Las Vegas, although it’s hard to guess if that one was intentional or Storer was just trying to create a name for a catchall wrestling convention, but being that Starer once “owned and operated a women’s wrestling promotion in Pennsylvania,” I think it’s safe to assume she’s familiar with the business.

The Gimmick issue 5 cover

At the conclusion of issue five, spoiler alert, Shane has been found by the FBI, as well as Alicia, and it’s been revealed to him that he has a baby with super strength, and Sam has discovered the masked wrestler she’s been palling around with is the man who murdered her father. Also, Alicia and Sam have unknowingly met and befriended each other. At the time of this review, the final issue of The Gimmick is yet to be released, but I’m looking forward to how it all comes together in the end. This has been a fun, darkly comic read, and I’ve enjoyed the illustrations by Gogou, which are just cartoonish enough that the sudden moments of violence aren’t gratuitous.

Another small perk that usually doesn’t have much appeal for me, in most other comic books, is the supplemental material at the end of each issue, where the back pages are filled with bonus prose and comics by other talented writers and artists. Something that served as a nice surprise  was when, at the conclusion of issue two, editor Tom Peyer wrote about the first time he saw pro wrestling in a comic book, in Superman volume 1, issue 155, in which Superman has a wrestling match with Antonino Rocca, so you know I’ll have to read that one for a future article (if I can locate a cheap copy). 

Superman 155 cover 

The Gimmick stands out from the other fictional wrestling comics I’ve read in that it’s set in a grounded, contemporary world, but just one or two characters (for now) have a super power. Also, it’s comedic, which goes a long way with me, especially since the majority of contemporary pro wrestling comic books are very serious. In addition to that, it’s important to acknowledge that the writer and cover artist for The Gimmick (Joanne Starer and Erica Henderson) are women and the illustrator (Elena Gogou) is nonbinary, which isn’t the typical makeup for most comic book creative teams, and that needs to be supported and encouraged.

I wouldn’t be surprised if issue six isn’t ultimately the end of this story, and I do hope that it lives on, in either another mini-series or a long-form comic book, where the characters have more room to grow. The Gimmick should be an enjoyable comic book for wrestling fans and non-fans alike, and I recommend you pick it up, either as the six, individual comic books, or the collected trade paperback, which is scheduled for release on September 27, 2023.