Down. Set. Fight!Have you ever seen a professional football team’s mascot get into a fight? If not, have you ever thought it would be funny if they did? Luckily for you, there’s Down. Set. Fight! In their newest graphic novel, Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, and Scott Kowalchuk have created an action-packed, fast-paced story that shows readers just what happens when mascots stop being polite and start getting real.

In the world of professional football, “Fearless” Chuck Fairlane was on his way to the top of his game. After Chuck lost his mother when he was a teen, he was unconventionally trained by his father, a professional gambler and all-around jerk who made his son run through traffic blindfolded like Frogger. Chuck became a great player, but his dad was there all along, trying to use his son’s talent to make a profit for himself. When his father taunted him during the big game that would have cemented his superstar status, Chuck punched out a well-loved mascot and lost it all—and then turned his father in to the Feds. Years later, Chuck has become an anonymous high school football coach; he’s happy, healthy, and glad that his father is finally behind bars where he belongs. But when costumed mascots start trying to take Chuck down and his father is released from prison, he wonders if Fearless can and should return after all these years. From elephants to bears to crocodiles, these mascots are mean fighting machines and they seem determined to put Chuck out of commission, even though he has no idea who they are or why they’ve come. Can Fearless stop the crazies and stay ahead of the F.B.I. agents who think Chuck is in cahoots with his dad, or will the menacing mascots get their final revenge on old Fearless Fairlane?

Writers Chris “World-Renowned Batmanologist” Sims and Chad Bowers have written a story that will appeal to football fans and non-fans alike. The story is really funny and whimsical, and even though football plays a big role in the book, I wouldn’t call it a sports comic. Overall, it’s an entertaining read that will keep readers wondering if Chuck will prevail over the tough guys who are trying to mess up his life. Sims and Bowers successfully incorporate themes of father-and-son conflict and redemption in a humorous story that’s also full of powerful punches and daring escapes; the plot is never dragged down by melancholy or overt silliness.

Scott Kowalchuk’s illustrations are some of my absolute favorites. I love how he intermixes regular comics panels and full-page illustrations in order to create a story that moves seamlessly from page to page. The coloring is perfect—not too bright, but not dark enough to cast a pall over the story—and word bubbles feature clear and concise lettering. The characters are well-drawn, with expressive mannerisms and easily recognizable characteristics. Of course, the important thing in this book is the action: swinging chairs, flying punches, and other motions are depicted in a way that seems to show real movement, paired with on-point onomatopoeia when characters are hit with fists or frying pans. Kowalchuk also draws some panels without lines, which are fun, unexpected, and easy to follow; the reader’s eye naturally follows the action as he draws it around the page.

Down. Set. Fight! is a fun and fast read, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I certainly wanted to see whether Fearless would achieve his redemption in the end, and I know readers will be captivated and amused by this story of mascots gone wild.

Down. Set. Fight!
by Chris Sims and Chad Bowers
Art by Scott Kowalchuk
ISBN: 9781620101162
Oni Press, 2014

  • Traci

    | She/Her

    Traci has been a graphic novel selector and collections coordinator for kids and teens in libraries in Arizona and Oregon since 2005. She served as the chair of YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, and served as a member of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens blogging team. She previously coordinated the Oregon Young Adult Network’s Graphic Rave list, OYAN’s yearly list of the best graphic reads for teens. Traci is a member of ALA, YALSA, and GNCRT. And, she achieved her greatest dream ever by serving as a judge for the 2019 Eisner Awards.

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