With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems
Illustrated and colored by: Scott Kowalchuk
In the weeks leading up to the release of Down Set Fight, writer Chris Sims would plug away on his War Rocket Ajax podcast (with co-host Matt Wilson) regarding his Oni Press graphic novel. In promoting the book, the line that always stood out was, “Who doesn’t want to see mascots getting punched in the face?”
The man is not wrong. If someone had done that during this year’s
mind-numbing blowout with very few commercials worth a damn Super Bowl, it could have made for a much more entertaining time. Alas, there was no mascot punching at the “Big Game,” but Down Set Fight gives you all the mascot abuse you could ask for. While the book is mostly promoted on humor and action (which there’s plenty of), Down Set Fight also contains quite a bit of heart and thought as well as entertainment.
Down Set Fight tells the story of “Fearless” Chuck Fairlane, a football player well on his way to superstar status. As Fairlane is playing his career-defining game, he also has to deal with his manipulative father, the head of the biggest gambling ring on the East Coast. The culmination of these events results in Fairlane taking down a smart-mouthed mascot – and then every other player and coach (on both teams!) on the field. A decade later, Fairlane has retreated into small-town life as a football coach in the Carolinas (at Darius Rucker High School, natch) after the nationally-televised incident. However, the past comes back to haunt him as a line of mascots looking for revenge (or something more?) come to challenge Fairlane one after another. The action gets wild and woolly as Fairlane works with FBI Agent Molly Harrison to get to the bottom of the myriad of masked muggers, setting up for the best Super Bowl Halftime Show this side of Prince.
Bowers and Sims do an excellent job of taking the story in two different directions and yet having them meld together very well. On one hand, Down Set Fight is all about the action. Dude’s fighting team mascots, for Pete’s sake. In various forms, shapes, and sizes. Grizzlies, Unicorns, Tigers…you name it, they’re in action here. And if you look closely, you’ll probably recognize a wrestling move or two mixed in all the brawling. Kowalchuk’s are is suited for this style as well – somewhat cartoony but not so much as to take you out of the other story going on.
The biggest credit to Down Set Fight is that it’s a story about relationships as well as man-on-mascot violence. The flashbacks about Farilane and his father fit the narrative – somewhat over-the-top but grounded in enough reality as to not be completely unbelievable (except maybe the bear traps). The story between them also culminates around the same time as the Royal mascot Rumble, and it is a story many may recognize in dealing with dysfunctional family relationships, but also the idea of dealing with pleasing your family versus making yourself happy, and where that line should be drawn. Sims and Bowers draw a bold line as far as that type of relationship goes; it’s a very obvious line, certainly, but one that definitely helps to explore the idea of family and sacrifice.
Down Set Fight is an excellent, if occasionally outlandish, graphic novel of family tribulations and furry brutality. The two are things you don’t see together every day, and it’s a credit to Sims, Bowers, and Kowalchuk that the two are blended together so well that the book is a not only a fun read, but packs a little catharsis to boot. The Oni Press book from these three gentlemen, available on Comixology (both in serialized and collected form) and on the Oni Press website, gets 4 out of 5 Pittsburgh Pachyderms