Written by: Brandon Easton
Illustrated by: Denis Medri
Publisher: Lion Forge Comics
Format: Softcover, 6.5 x 10.25, 104 pages, Full Color, $12.99
André Roussimoff is best known to the world by his wrestling alias Andre the Giant, but behind the wrestler, actor, and inspiration for Shepard Fairey's Obey clothing/art line was a man who knew both triumph and tragedy, and this graphic novel sets out to reveal the man behind the legend.
Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven is as much the story of professional wrestling as it is Andre's, and in that mingling shows how vital a role Roussimoff played in the sport’s rise from regional attraction to national phenomenon. Along the way, we're shown the welcoming home that wrestling provided, and the excesses that came with André's success.
Closer to Heaven tells Roussimoff’s story as an extended flashback, with André narrating the tale. The story begins with André's childhood in France, where he was pulled out of school to work his family's farm. As he grew to adulthood and started feeling the urge to leave for the bigger world, a chance meeting at a local wrestling match lead to his entering that profession. The graphic novel then charts his rise through the sport, moving up from the local circuit to matches around the world, and finally to his fame-making career in the World Wrestling Federation. André's run as one of the top stars of the WWF came at the same time that the organization made its moves into the mainstream, and this story illustrates how vital a role he played in its success.
While most of the graphic novel focuses on André's wrestling career, writer Brandon Easton also delves into the darker sides of his life, including Roussimoff's notorious drinking and partying habits, and mentions his estranged daughter Robin, although neither she nor her mother show up in the story. While Easton avoids pursuing these personal dramas too deeply, they're used to paint a complete picture of the man known mostly for his physical attributes.
Denis Medri's art helps flesh out the book, capturing André's size and interactions well without cartoonish exaggeration. The art displays a strong use of panel layout, and he imbues the numerous wrestling figures who show up with their unique energies and personalities.
Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven is suggested for readers 13 and up who enjoy wrestling, biographies, or are fans of Andre the Giant. (One note, there is use of the n-word in one sequence, and while it's within the story's context, readers should be aware).