Theatrics Volume One followed the life of Rudy Burns, the most famous actor on Broadway who had a life-changing event happen to him that felt like it was ripped straight out of a Westside Musical.
After losing his looks, job, money, girl and home, he was left at rock bottom and almost contemplated taking his own life until he instead decided to take on the role of a lifetime.
As the Boxer, Count Rossino, we watched as Rudy changed into a monster of a man that was seen as the most ferocious person who ever stepped foot in the ring.
Using the story that he was fighting to avenge his dead family, Rudy rose through the ranks and slipped into his role every time he slipped on the gloves.
Rudy’s life felt like it was really getting back on track and that he’d rolled with the punches instead of being left down for the count.
Here to continue the story is Theatrics Volume Two by the outstanding Neil Gibson who once more delivers a book that’ll hit you where it hurts.
Fighting For His Life
We open with Rudy revelling in the success of being one of the World’s best boxers and we see how the situation around him changes for the better. However, being at the top also comes with people that want to use him once more.
What I loved about the first volume is that we saw someone who really came back from the brink and punched defeat squarely in the face. Rudy saw first hand that people in the acting world had just used him for his talents and as soon as he asked for something back they left him out in the cold. The second volume almost feels like a reverse of that and early one we see those same people return in order to try and capitalise on his success once more.
It really makes Rudy relatable and it’s easy to put yourself in his shoes (or gloves) as you yourself feel like shouting at the comic to tell them to go back to the same hole they crawled out of (maybe I’m getting a bit dramatic with all the theatrics too).
It really shows just how well executed the protagonist is and the nuances like this extend far beyond Rudy himself.
Who’s Fighting His Corner?
In the last volume, you may recall that his friend/manager Sammy was slowly starting to manipulate Rudy so that he could fulfil his own desires and we see that come out in full effect here. Sammy turns away Rudy’s ex-girlfriend, his old pals and slowly starts to alienate all those around him so that he can control the character.
Of course, he states that he’s doing it for Rudy’s best interests but you really start to wonder whether the monster that we are seeing the protagonist transform into is indeed the direction that the character should be heading.
Every fight transforms him more and more into his persona and I loved the subtle imagery of watching Sammy pour acid on his gloves to make him seem more fearsome in the ring whilst he also dissolved the character’s soul outside of it.
It’s inspired work and Leonardo Gonzalez once more does a terrific job of adding authenticity to the work through his art. I’ve always felt like Gibson’s stories had a somewhat timeless feel to them and when coupled with an artist who can easily capture the era of the 1920’s you really see why TPub is one of the comic companies to look out for.
Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde
Now I may be reading into this a bit but I found a lot of the work aped the classic story ‘Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.’ It’s one of my favourite works and over the decades it’s fascinated me due to its metaphors of alcoholism and the story of someone transforming into a completely different person.
There’s several points in the book which I think echoed that work and watching Rudy head out into the night dressed in his long tattered trench coat and badly beaten top hat sent goosebumps down my spine as we saw him become a completely different man.
He even alienates his own mother and though he has gained this new reputation and lifestyle, we have to ask ourselves what it cost.
Below The Belt
All good boxing stories need a good fight and Theatric’s comes with Rudy facing off against The Champ, a man who’s actually as barbaric as the person our protagonist is portraying.
He actually knows who Rudy is and announces this to him in the heat of round one. It truly throws the character and we watch as he has to tussle with someone who’s not only intent on destroying his character but also the man he truly is.
Rudy himself has to go below the belt and we see as he’s willing to fight dirty in order to win. It shows just how much he’s changed as a person and you start to turn on the character as he becomes a monster.
However, the true enemy of the work comes in the aftermath of the fight.
I don’t want to spoil anything but we watch as the book takes a real left turn and it sees Rudy’s life becoming something similar to The Count’s.
It’s the perfect way to end everything and it feels like a tragic twist that will haunt you long after you put it down.
Theatrics is an awesome end to the story and this is an excellent two-parter that I definitely recommend you pick up. TPub has done it again and produced another really unique storyline that feels like something overly familiar due to it’s neat references, callbacks and nods to the time.
However, it takes things in a completely different direction at points and definitely doesn’t pull it’s punches when it comes to the storyline and characters.
Theatrics is a knockout in every sense of the word that you have to pick up and that’s why it gets a…