July 12, 2024

REVIEW: TOTAL SUPLEX OF THE HEART OGN

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Read Time:4 Minute, 52 Second

CREATIVE TEAM:
(W) Joanne Starer (A) Ornella Greco (L) Nathan Kempf 


SOLICITATION:
Glowing up isn’t the same as growing up.

Georgie’s always been nerdy: Teased by jocks, spending her lunchtime with a comic in hand, and falling in love with wrestling from Saturday nights on the couch with her dad. But that was then – This is now!

She’s out of school, freelancing as a journalist, and hot as heck. In an effort to prove to her mom that she has a “real job,” she goes undercover in the local hardcore wrestling scene to investigate a piece. She’s quickly swept up in the drama, both in and out of the ring. With new friendships developing and potential romance blossoming, she’s riding the wave of attention that temporarily silences her own insecurities. But as girl fights, casual hook-ups, and creepy older men begin to dominate her days, Georgie has to ask herself who really holds the power in her life, and whether she’s happy with where it’s headed.

An unflinchingly honest coming-of-age tale set in the fast-paced world of wrestling, Total Suplex of the Heart explores the complicated nature of growing up as a young woman in a male-dominated world: Georgie battles through eating disorders, toxic relationships, and her own messy mistakes. It’s a spirited story of falling in love, crashing and burning, and then finding your way back by falling in love again… this time, with yourself. Inspired in part by the real pro-wrestling experiences of writer Joanne Starer (The Gimmick, Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville) and featuring the explosive art of up-and-comer Ornella Greco (Star Trek: Picard’s Academy).


FIRST THOUGHT:
I’ve read comics for 40+ years at this point, and I can tell within a few pages if I’m going to enjoy the rest of the comic. That enjoyment may grow as the story progresses, or it might shrink because the ending doesn’t land right with me. The ending for TOTAL SUPLEX OF THE HEART landed perfectly for me because life is about the wins and the losses and how you handle both of those when life throws them at you. 


THE STORY:
TOTAL SUPLEX OF THE HEART is about Georgie, and possibly about Joanne Starer, the writer of this graphic novel. There’s some doubt as to how much of this is fiction and non-fiction if you read Starer’s letter to the reader at the end of the book. What she does admit is to starting a women’s wrestling company back in 2022. Beyond that fact, the rest is up to the reader to speculate, and there’s no doubt that some of this has to be true because it feels real from page to page. The amazing thing about comics is that you can tell any story with them, you just need to keep the reader engaged in something that makes them want to see what’s going to happen next. Georgie, in this book, is the character we all get connected to and want to see succeed despite how she unwittingly sabotages herself. 

Starer creates (or retells) some events in Georgie’s life that has the reader rooting for her every step of the way. Georgie is a strong character, but has weaknesses, and her friends she meets along the way help build her back up and strengthen her. But, there are those that she meets along the way that tear her down emotionally. The struggle for the reader is to witness her go through these downs in her life, and one in particular that comes out of nowhere. In hindsight, that moment was building and may have been telegraphed for some readers who have been in similar situations. 


THE ART:
The art by Ornella Greco and lettering by Nathan Kempf is stellar. Greco’s linework and colors throughout this book is some of my favorite art I’ve seen in a book this year. There’s a simplicity to it that is refined and able to tell the story in a very clean style. There’s emotion on everyone’s face. The words aren’t necessary for the reader to know what a character is feeling, and that’s a huge plus for an artist. There’s a lot of emotional moments in this book and Greco handles all of those scenes with amazing talent. Part of what makes the pacing in this issue so smooth is the fluidity that gives the characters movement. There’s nothing on the page that makes a character feel like they’re frozen in time, but on the contrary ready to take that next step or open that door or body slam that character. 

Nathan Kempf’s lettering in this book is top notch. This is a 150+ page book and there’s a lot happening on every page with a lot of dialogue. Kempf’s work never falters and works extremely well throughout. There has to be a lot of coordination with an artist and a letterer in how that panels are going to be laid out and where the word balloons and narration boxes will be, and it shows that Greco and Kempf work very well together. 


CLOSING THOUGHTS:
TOTAL SUPLEX OF THE HEART isn’t a book that I thought I would be ready to rave about to friends before I read it, but this is easily one of my favorite books of the year. The writing is great, and the art is refreshing. I hope when you do get a chance to read this book that you do it all in one sitting, because I did. I was 100+ pages in before I even considered how long I had been reading it and enjoying every page. 


About Post Author

Chris

Chris has been a comic book fan since picking up ELFQUEST #2 off the spinner rack and the corner store near his grandparents' home in Durham, NC. Since then, Chris has bought, read, and sold more comics than he cares to count. There isn't a comic book series that Chris won't try at least one issue of if you're willing to stay and listen to what he thinks about it.
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