Before we jump into talking about one of TKO’s newest series, Pound For Pound. I have something I want to say first. Pound For Pound is one of the darkest comics I’ve read for quite some time. A gritty and dark tale that on the whole stays grounded until the final issue. A story absolutely overflowing with twists and turns and, to my suprise. Almost all of them actually surprised me and had a genuine impact. Undoubtedly Pound For Pound’s strongest feature its main character. MMA fighter Dani Libra. Haunted by a traumatic past and reoccurring blackouts she is forced to overcome her own demons after her little sister is kidnapped. Previously the concept of the story sounded fairly vague to me. However, after reading through the entire 6 issue series Pound For Pound is without a doubt one of the most intriguing comics I’ve read recently.
You’ll know Pound For Pound’s writer, Natalie Chaidez from her work on Queen of the South. The series’ fantastic artwork is produced by Andy Belanger who you’ll recognize from Southern Cross and Daniela Miwa who has worked on The Fearsome Doctor Fang. We’ll keep the first part of this review spoiler-free, for any of you yet to read Pound For Pound. Don’t worry, you’ll be given fair warning before we jump into all those spoilers. What took me surprise when I read Pound For Pound was just how much of a mystery this story was. Constantly unraveling in front of you but with enough twists to keep you on your toes right until the end.
What at first seems to be a simple rescue mission turns into something much darker. Dani is battling real-life threats as well as her own traumatic past to try and save her sister from a threat she didn’t even know existed. A gripping story combined with a great cast of characters makes Pound For Pound a fantastic read for fans of both action and mystery. You’ll find the story is overflowing with both. Pound For Pound is a mature tale, for the older comic fans. From gritty violence and gore to some nudity. Pound For Pound tells an adult story with a high level of maturity and sophistication.
If you’re in need of a good bit of action over the festive season. Pound For Pound may be the way to go. Now if you’re yet to give it a read, you’re going to want to skip to the end. Spoilers are incoming.
Pound For Pound starts as it means to go on. We meet Dani in the middle of an MAA match and she’s kicking serious ass. The only problem being this was a fight she was supposed to throw. Winning the match pissed off Local mob boss Gonzalo who definitely isn’t compensating for his short stature. Seriously the guys like 4ft 2 it’s hilarious. Right out the gate, we see just how haunted Dani is by her bloody past, but we still don’t know what happened. She promises Gonzalo she’ll get him the money he lost on the fight, and leaves to go back home to her little sister.
We meet Danis little sister Espie, a likable enough character but because she’s so young in such a mature story she is never really given the spotlight. She’s used throughout as a driving force for Dani’s character rather than a main character all of her own. We also meet Officer Reynold. A local cop who’s a little dim but nice enough and a love intrest for Dani. I enjoyed both of them togther, and their relationship had a nice arc to it throughout the series…
Dani once again is getting ready to up and leave, but before she can get the chance, Gonzalo looking to make his own money back takes her little sister hostage. We see Danis’s past is still haunting her and even comes close to getting her killed but she pulls through and sets out on a mission of her own. To get her sister back.
A Father Figure
Dani enlists the help of Sal, ex-boxer and the man who raised Dani and Espie. The two have history. After Sal found out about Dani’s underground fights he wanted no part of it. Now, however, he’s back by her side to get Espie back, a girl he thinks of as a daughter. The pair are joined by Officer Reynold and the three set off to Gonzales mansion to get Espie back. The three storm the mansion in what at first seems like a generic action movie sequence. It is elevated however by Dani and Sals back and forth banter. The absolutely incredible artwork, which truly brings the action to life. Plus, the small flashbacks to Dani’s past as we learn more and more about what happened to her and her parents. Mixed in with the action it was enough to keep me invested.
Gonzalo tells Dani he sold Espie. He gives her a small coin with a strange symbol on it, a symbol she recognizes from her flashbacks. Gonzalo tries one last time to kill Dani and pays the price in a truly brutal fashion. Reynold is told that the body of a young girl just came in and fearing the worst Dani and Sal go to see if its Espie. It’s worth pointing out, at this point a genuinely didn’t know if Pound For Pound were about to kill off Espie. With most comics, you know for a fact that the main characters are protected. Thats good old fashioned plot armor for you. Here, however, I wasn’t too sure just how safe Espie was. They never take that leap, but for a second I thought they might.
The girl turns out to not be Espie but she is marked with that strange symbol, leading Dani and Sal back to where it all began. Back to the desert which Dani keeps seeing in her flashbacks.
The Patriot Council
As Dani and Sal try and cross the border into America they are picked up by The Patriot Council. A bunch of religious crazies who believe they are protecting God’s great land from border jumpers. A completely over the top yet hilarious group, I found them to be far funnier then they were intimidating. Sal reveals, that he adopted both Dani and Espie when Dani was 10. Something Dani didn’t know about making them both American citizens. A curveball that came seemingly out of nowhere, but was touching nevertheless. Even if it was a little convenient.
Dani then has to fight the Councils champion, Paul Reaver, in the battle of Yorktown for…some reason. A scene which wouldn’t have looked out of place in an Indiana Jones movie, Dani fights this huge patriotic beast in a snake pit to prove her…loyalty to America? Hell, I don’t know but the fight was once again absolutely stunning visually. Plus it was a nice dose of comic relief. Dani, of course, wins the fight and the two of them make their way into the desert to try and find Espie.
A Bloody Past
I appreciated the fact Pound For Pound took some time away from the main story to expand on not only Dani’s past but also Sals. Dani’s father wanted them to live a new life. A better life in America, and so tried crossing the border illegally. Thats when El Monstruo, the crazed evil psychopath from Danis flashbacks attacked them in the desert. Killing Dani’s parents and leaving the two young girls to roam the desert alone.
Sal, on the other hand, had run up some large debts back in Boston. He fled south of the border and married. His debts finally caught up to him though and paid the ultimate price. When the people he couldn’t pay killed his wife to send a message. Sal buried her in the desert and surprisingly found two young girls wandering the desert all alone. He found some new purpose in life, raising the two girls as his own.
That same gritty action is featured throughout these flashbacks but it was nice to take a break from the current events. Getting to know about our characters’ pasts was a refreshing touch.
Back From The Dead
Pound For Pound’s two biggest twists come near the end. The first of which, comes after Sal and Dani find themselves up against a group of cult followers in the middle of the desert. They’re about to sacrifice some poor unfortunate soul but before they get the chance Dani and Sal make light work of the group. Another fantastic splash of action. That same strange symbol and a familiar face from Danis flashbacks confirm this mysterious group had something to do with her parent’s death. Dani never gest the chance to find her answers however after a suprise save from Officer Reynold and the cult disappear into the night.
Wandering the desert the trio finds a truly unexpected suprise. Dani and Espie’s father, still alive and caged up in the middle fo the desert. Her father explains how the cult held him, prisoner, putting him to work disposing of bodies. Sal doesn’t believe a word of it, leading to him and Dani arguing and Sal going his own separate way. Dani and her father now carry on alone to get Espie back. Dani and Sal’s “falling out” was probably one of the more emotional moments of the entire series.
An Unexpected Foe
Issue 6 is where Pound For Pound really starts to get weird. Well weirder than normal anyway. It begins with yet another flashback to 1981 and Hector Mijo. An overweight kid, who is getting bullied. In a completely over the top reaction, Hector kills his bullies, in the desert, eating some of their bodies and giving the rest to the pigs. I told you it got weird.
Dani and her dad reach the Smiling Pig pork factory, where Danis’s father says the cult is hiding Espie. They eventually find Espie only for her to freak out after seeing her father. Dani’s dad then reveals all after shocking Dani in the back with a baton. He was never attacked by El Monstruo that night in the desert. He is El Monstruo. Undoubtedly the biggest twist in the entire series and one I did not see coming.
Sal and Reynold are on their way to help Dani and Espie but run into a group fo those masked lunatics. Getting ready to take them on Sal is shot in the back by none other than…Reynold. Another betrayal already? This one didn’t hit as hard as Dani’s father betraying her, and unfortuanlty felt a little buried with all the chaos of the series final act.
Dani’s Father wants to sacrifice Dani and Espie to his “God” who turns out to be Hector, now grown up and absolutely huge. The series ends out with two climactic battles between Sal, Reynold and the Cult as well as Dani and her Father. Sal despite his old age still kicks some serious ass, and Dani overcomes her trauma, using all her MMA skills to finally best her father and burn the factory to the ground.
A satisfying enough conclusion to an intriguing mystery. The twists and turns did get a little over the top for me personally. It felt like I was being hit over the head with them rather than them actually sticking the landing, and Hector’s inclusion right at the end did pull me out of what was a gritty and grounded story.
Dani and Sal are the stars. They are both absolutely fantastic. Their Father and Daughter relationship is not only believable but grows throughout the entire series. Dani is a true action heroine, who is both relatable and likable. Sal offers some good comic relief throughout and I really enjoyed his arc as Dani’s Father figure.
Dani’s actual Father is an interesting one. He doesn’t show up until the very end and isn’t revealed as the villain until the last few pages. His motivations for wanting to sacrifice his family don’t go as far as “he was brainwashed”. However, he is visually the darkest and most menacing villain of the entire series. He looks horrifying throughout and it’s great.
Reynold was likable enough at first but never compared to the likes of Dani and Sal. His eventual betrayal came completely out of nowhere and it never really landed with me. I was more invested with Sal and Dani’s relationship to really care about losing Reynold, espcially after he backstabbed Sal.
Espie and Gonzalo were minor characters who had some personality but were mainly there to move the plot along. Espcially Espie who isn’t even seen for most of the series.
Hector was a really strange character. He was introduced right at the end and was completely out of place. Even though this is a pretty “out there” story it is for the most part grounded in some realism. Hector’s character completely took me out of the story and didn’t mesh well with me. It wasn’t enough to spoil the series but it just didn’t quite stick the landing.
Pound For Pound looks absolutely brilliant. A story filled with gritty and gory fights which all look stunning. The backdrops also look brilliant, with the warm color pallet really selling the South American setting. The mature scenes are handled brilliant and the series artwork really does elevate the storytelling.
Overall Pound For Pound is a gritty, hard-hitting mysterious tale, which balances both intrigue and actions excellently. A strong cast of well-written characters and brilliant artwork make Pound For Pound a thoroughly enjoyable read, even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing in its final issue.
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