I first fell in love with Charle Soule’s work with 27, after watching an episode of the sorely missed Fresh Ink Online. Upon getting my hands on the first trade of 27, I devoured it, and went looking for all the Soule that I could get my hands on, which, in turn, led me to this less-well-known work, Strongman.
Strongman, serves as Soule’s first graphic novel work, and doubles as a really solid debut. The story is as strong as the main character himself, known as Tigre; a man who has fallen out of the limelight for some thirty years. In Mexico, he was a wrestling legend, going 200-1-1, a star of over forty films, and a hero in his country. After the events of 1973, Tigre disappears, along with his companions. Thirty years later, Tigre is throwing fights to guys that he could wipe the floor with for fifty dollars a night. One night, a woman knocks on his door, and presents Tigre with the opportunity to redeem himself, to thwart a plot so despicable that it cuts at the very flesh and soul of our fearless hero.
Soule writes a very deep, compelling story. One that combines elements of Mexican heritage and wrestling, placed in a noir type of setting. Tigre himself, is an unstoppable machine; he feels like a combination of Marv from Sin City, while having a code like Batman, only one that he is willing, at times, to take too far. He may not use guns, but that doesn’t mean he won’t visit death upon his enemies. His sense of justice and of wanting to do the right thing paints him as the great Mexican hero that time forgot. Soule does a great job of writing the dialogue to fit just such a character. It may feel flat at times, but speaks to the translation aspect of the story. Ponder it a while and you’ll realize just how genius and well researched it is.
As a wrestling and comics fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a debut piece, this is a really strong bit of storytelling from Soule and Allen Gladfelter’s art makes me think that this story could have lived as a Telenovela. If you loved 27, you will appreciate just how well Soule constructs characters, and situations that bring out the best in those characters. The only crime, as of the writing of this review, is the unavailability of the second volume of the Strongman saga, Oaxaca Tapout. However, this first volume is worth repeated visits.