The sport of Roller Derby – at least from the episodes of “Rollergames” that I watched two summers ago in my basement, and from following the Worcester Roller Derby team on Facebook – is freakin’ awesome.
“Slam!” is a comic book series that combines the badassery of the women featured in real-life Roller Derby teams, like the aforementioned Worcester Roller Derby team, and the over-the-top ridiculousness of “Rollergames,” albeit on a much more toned-down, more realistic level and not as rooted in ’80s culture.
“Slam!” is a modern-day story for the sport.
With such talent as writer Pamela Ribon (Disney’s “Moana” and the upcoming “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2”) and Illustrator Veronica Fish (Archie issues #5-#9 and Spider-Woman issues #10-#17), readers are in for a treat on every page.
“Slam!” showcases the chronicles of two women in their 20s – Jennifer Chu and Maise Huff, as they discover the joys and oddities of being roommates, as well as learn about Roller Derby from a spectator’s perspective and answer the call to get acquainted in the Fresh Meat Orientation, after much pestering from the Eastside Roller Girls, their local team.
From then on, they are no longer just Jennifer and Maise, but they become “Knockout” and “Ithinka Can,” respectively, on the derby track.
However, their success is not instantaneous.
Ribon quickly informs the audience this is not a story where the protagonists are masters of the sport from the get-go, but are characters rooted in humanity – they have to practice and exercise like every other person who answered the call, in real-life Roller Derby and in the fictional world of “Slam!,” as well.
Simply put, these players are not super-powered derby geniuses.
Knockout and Ithinka Can get beaten up and thrown around a ton in the first couple issues, but it is all a part of the learning process, as they both quickly realize. That is one thing I really like about this series compared to other sports-related comics of its kind. It shows the strenuous training regiments of a sport as contact-heavy as Roller Derby is, and the heart required to endure such punishment, even in the jaws of defeat.
On top of the realistic depictions of training, what also caught my eye was the attention to detail that Ribon put into describing certain Roller Derby terms that casual fans – or those willing to get into Roller Derby – could understand, thanks to Fish’s supplemental illustrations.
Sure, a hardcore Roller Derby fan can understand what a “jammer” does, or what a “panty” is in derby terms without needing to look at a reference guide on some random person’s Pinterest board, as you do, but new readers can get caught up to speed on how to “pop a squat,” derby-style, in no time.
Regarding the topic of illustrations, Fish gives the world of “Slam!” a vibrant, new-age look, full of color and charm. This not only applies to the characters and their designs, but the scenery that surrounds the characters from page to page. Everything is lovingly detailed and skillfully drawn.
The conflicts in the plot, much like Roller Derby rivalries in real life, are full of taunts and aggression between teams, but the conflicts have personality and a sense of uniqueness about them.
The same can be said about the characters. No character feels generic – none of the characters feel like they were just drawn in just to be drawn in at random. Each character is as unique as the helmet she wears, and the story she tells.
“Slam!” is just another independent comic to some, but, to me, a fun, compelling, modern look into one of the biggest new sports of the past 20 years from a female perspective – one that we need in the media today.
If you enjoy “Slam!,” check out the continuation seen in “Slam! The Next Jam.”