Dani is a haunted woman, an immigrant who’s made it to the USA, but rage-fuelled by what the journey cost her. She channels that rage into cage fighting, at which she’s a natural, and working for one of the local gangsters earns her enough to keep her younger sister safe and a trailer home. A bonus is the relationship with a local cop. However, even cage fighters have to follow some rules, and one of them is not to cross the gangster you work for.

Natalie Chaidez comes to comics with a notable list of film and TV writing credits, so knows her way around a drama and how to set up suspense and a cast that grabs the interest, which is all efficiently achieved in the opening chapter. After that the emotive subject of child trafficking is introduced, and the tension of a quest against time and impossible odds occupies the remainder of Pound for Pound.

Plenty of eccentric characters are supplied for Andy Belanger to draw in his detailed blocky style, which is basically straight action realism, but sometimes almost veers off into something from the underground. He latches on to the pulp sensibilities of the plot and the grotesques among the cast and exploits them gleefully. The larger than usual page size usefully showcases that not a single member of the main cast has an easy life, yet he still manages to make Dani attractive.

Dani’s background is drip-fed, but well enough so the dots can be joined, and Chaidez keeps the emotional tension high along with the suspense while simultaneously signposting what’s coming up in the final chapter. She’s got a surprise coming, though, and when it hits every reader will be kicking themselves, as the clues are all present, and Belanger’s done his part. A second major plot bomb in the final chapter is over-egging the plot for cheap shock, but for the most part Pound for Pound thrills and spills as it should.