Kate’s Review: “Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition”

Book: “Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition” by Josh Hicks

Publishing Info: Graphic Universe (Tm), October 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC via NetGalley from the author.

Book Description: Step into the ring at Glorious Wrestling Alliance, the universe’s least-professional wrestling company. The Great Carp, an amphibious wonder, is feeling the weight of his championship. Miranda Fury has donned a mask to smash wrestling’s glass ceiling. And Gravy Train is desperate for a new gimmick, but it’s hard when you’re shaped like a giant gravy boat.

Collected in colossal full color for the first time, Josh Hicks’s cult-hit comic covers identity, anxiety, and leg drops. In this hilarious love letter to the surreal theater of pro wrestling, the insecure grapplers of GWA lock up, throw things, throw each other, and occasionally curl up into little balls.

Review: Thank you to Josh Hicks and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I’ve been with my husband since we were in high school, and I distinctly remember his bedroom being adorned with pro-wrestling posters. Just recently his mother cleaned some of his stuff out of storage at her house, and one of the items was a framed poster of The Rock that is now sitting in our mudroom, waiting to be placed somewhere in our home. I didn’t get into pro wrestling until recently, when a now closed (DAMN YOU COVID) bar in Minneapolis had a Mexican food and pro-wrestling theme. We would go there for drinks, and watch old school matches, and now I appreciate it for the entertainment that it is. So when author Josh Hicks reached out asking if I would be interested in reading his graphic novel “Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition”, I absolutely jumped at the chance!

“Glorious Wrestling Alliance” follows the wrestlers of the Glorious Wrestling Alliance, a quirky and a little bit of a hot mess in some ways wrestling organization. They are popular and well loved, but their CEO, Ricky Lovett Junior, has the company teetering. On top of that their reigning champion, Great Carp (a being with a fish head for a head and a human body), is suffering from anxiety, one of their bigger heels Death Machine is more interested in poetry than wrestling as of late, a frontman named Gravy Train wants to switch up his character in spite of the fact he is literally shaped like a gravy boat, and Miranda Fury wants to be taken seriously, when the women’s division is sidelined. We have our various moments of focus on each of these characters, and their storylines range from the funny, to the poignant, to the inspirational. You can’t help but root for all of them in their personal missions and goals, and seeing some rise while others start a free fall feels both VERY wrestling, but also very typical of stories about fame. There are definitely absurdist elements to this story (see above: a fish head guy and a man shaped like a gravy boat), but there are also relatable and familiar themes that shine through the absurd. My favorite was definitely Miranda’s arc, as she dons a mask and an androgynous look so that she can wrestle with the guys and be taken seriously. I felt that Hicks captured the frustration of being a woman in an industry that still has a lot of misogyny intertwined with it, and I liked seeing her persevere and kick butt, a lot of the time with humorous results.

Along with this, as a novice pro-wrestling fan who doesn’t see much of it outside of the annual Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, and the occasional Smackdown here and there, there were a number of cute Easter eggs that I spotted here and there on the pages. From similarities to trajectories that some wrestlers took post-wrestling (a budding writing career? That feels like Mick Foley to me!) to a one off character who is saying Ric Flair’s trademark ‘woo!’, I liked seeing the little references here and there to broader wrestling lore. And I have to imagine that there was a LOT there that a more knowledgable fan would be able to pick up on with ease. Maybe I should make my husband read this, I’m sure he’d spot a lot.

And finally, the artwork feels a lot like quirky cartoons a la “Steven Universe” or something that you may see from Noelle Stephenson, and it worked well for the tone and tongue in cheek attitude that this story has. And the character designs for some of the wrestlers and their mental states are really, really cute. I especially liked the moments where you would see an HP bar for the character depending on what was happening to them in the moment.

The guffaw I let out at this entire panel…. (Source: Graphic Universe)

I thought that “Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Edition” was a hoot!! It makes me want to dig up some old hilarious wrestling clips and watch to my heart’s content. There is so much love for the art form on these pages, it’s delightful.

Rating 8: A fun, funny, and sometimes poignant story about pro wrestling and some quirky people who have devoted their lives to it, for better or worse.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Glorious Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition” isn’t on any Goodreads lists at the moment, but I think that it would fit in on “Wrasslin'”.

Find “Ultimate Wrestling Alliance: Ultimate Championship Edition” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

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