The bond that two sisters share can be extremely powerful, especially in the wake of a traumatic family event. In Natalie Chaidez’s Pound For Pound series, the power of sisterhood is put to the test with the story of underground MMA fighter Dani Libra. Ballsy, violent and utterly engrossing, Pound For Pound is the kind of indie comic series that will keep you invested from start to finish.
The series is published by TKO Studios, which binge releases full comic collections at once. So, rather than wait six months to read the full story, I was able to read six issues in one sitting. It’s indie comic storytelling at its finest.
Down and dirty south of the border
Chaidez doesn’t waste any time in introducing the reader to the gritty underworld of illegal MMA fighting. The opening sequence involves Dani beating the shit out of her opponent while remembering the death of her parents. Within the first few panels, Chaidez establishes her protagonist as a badass who is willing to fight anyone who stands in her way.
Dani wins the fight, but the local drug kingpin is pissed off that she didn’t take a dive. In retaliation, Dani’s sister Hespi is kidnapped. Dani tracks down her surrogate father, Sal Marzilli, and they go on the warpath together.
The relationship between Dani and Marzilli forms an integral part of the series. Marzilli is as gruff and surly as they come, but the love he has for Dani means he’ll follow her to hell and back. Their snarky, back and forth banter is one of the strongest parts of Pound For Pound.
Dani’s complexity is intriguing as well. The way she wrestles with her blackouts and tries to piece together her past makes for some excellent scenes. The flashbacks she has of her parents are touching and deeply tragic.
Rednecks, cults and blood
The world of Pound For Pound is as visceral as its protagonist. On the quest to find her sister, Dani encounters all manner of freaks and monsters. At one point, she finds herself in the clutches of a hillbilly border patrol commune. Chaidez is brilliant at weaving fantasy into a down to earth setting.
Fight scenes are gory and bloody, with artists Andy Belanger and Daniela Miwa serving up plenty of violence. There’s broken bones and caved in skulls galore. But there are also softer moments, such as the exchanges that Dani has with Hespi and Marzilli. Character expressions are drawn beautifully, with emotions captured without the need for speech.
There’s a generous amount of twists and turns that will keep readers guessing as well. What starts out as a standard revenge plot develops into a complicated web of family ties. Dani is forced to confront her trauma head on, and it’s not something that she can just punch her way through.
Despite all the blood and carnage, Pound For Pound never loses its emotional centre. At its core, it’s about the love two sisters have for each other. It’s about the power of family and the ability to overcome adversity.