Whoa, Nellie! (1996) #3

Whoa Nellie, #03

Leave it to Jaime Hernandez to get me tearing up for a wrestling story.

But he’s got a great finale reveal, which ties the series together as well as echoes back to Love and Rockets Prime. Even after deliberating establishing reveals are going to be a thing in the issue, the last one comes as a perfect surprise. Jaime plays around with time a bit here. He’ll have a person going to talk to someone, they’re there immediately having the conversation, but time has passed in between. It’s all about what’s happening off-page, between the panels.

And, of course, the wrestling. There’s a whole lot of wrestling this issue, starting with the second half of Xochitl’s first fight as Texas champion. It does not go well, and it turns out her rise to the championship was just a way for the wrestling organization to give their pick a suitable venue for the win. Worse, everyone knows about it except Xo and Gina. It’s a coming of age story for Gina, her first real glimpse into the sadness of experience.

There are some great scenes for Xo and Gina. Jaime also gives Vicki an emotional life chapter closing scene; he writes the hell out of it. He draws it beautifully as well, but the writing acknowledges the gravity of the character. Vicki’s been an almost literal superhero in Love and Rockets. Jaime does it well.

The comic’s serious, but Jaime uses foreground and background action to maintain humor throughout. The way the wrestling open works—how Jaime dissects the impact of a fight scene in a comic, how the presentation controls how it’s read; it’s an outstanding, masterful comic book. It also just happens to be pretty funny, emotionally impactful, and just wild, wonderful women’s wrestling.

The issue ends with a wrestling exhibition, where Jaime gleefully introduces multiple wrestlers before they start pairing off to fight. There’s a ring commentator—catchphrase, Whoa, Nellie!—who handles all the exposition, which Jaime writes really well. He finds the character’s voice immediately. Then he works up this momentum of the announcer’s fight narration, against the actual fight, against the contextual information the reader might not have. It’s exceptionally well done.

Whoa, Nellie! is not the comic I was expecting. But it’s very much exactly what I needed.