TITLE: WWE: Then Now Forever #1
AUTHOR: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs, Daniel Bayliss.
PENCILLERS: Dan Mora, Rob Guillory, Schamberger, Fridolfs, Bayliss. Cover by Mora.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Wouldn’t be much of a pro wrestling/comic book web site if I didn’t talk about this one. While most WWE/comic book crossovers are fairly cringeworthy, this one is pretty damn good. It may be the best one that’s ever been done, save the epically campy Ultimate Warrior book from the ’90s.
Usually, licensed WWE comic books try to make the characters work outside their own environment. In 2010, Titan Comics started publishing WWE stories involving immortals, cultists, time travel, etc. Papercutz also published strange crime-noirish stories involving WWE stars in the fictitious “Titan City.” Then of course, you had the stuff Chaos Comics put out in the early 2000s. Now that was weird.
BOOM! Studios does venture into the outlandish and bizarre. But our main story is character driven, and very grounded…at least by WWE comic book standards. It also does something that, to my knowledge, has never been done before. It’s in-continuity with WWE television.
Written by Dennis Hopeless, the story takes place in the days prior to the Shield breaking up. Our main character is Seth Rollins, who WWE fans know will turn on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. We look at the brotherly dynamic between the three as they have a high-stakes confrontation with the Wyatt Family. But this brotherly bond will soon come to an end, as Rollins strikes out on his own at the expense of his Shield brothers.
What impressed me the most about this issue was how Hopeless handled Dean Ambrose. He’s not the main character, but the authenticity in his voice gives credibility to the story. Ambrose is an interesting blend of coolness and instability, with just a touch of goofiness. If you go overboard with any one of those, it’s not Dean Ambrose. For the most part, Hopeless nails it. Some of the dialogue is shaky, but it’s still some of the best I’ve seen in a wrestling comic book.
Dan Mora’s art is very expressive and animated. Very fitting for a world like this, with characters this flamboyant and colorful. Not to harp on Ambrose, but there’s a shot of Ambrose’s face right after Seth’s betrayal that actually tugs at the heartstrings. It’s all pretty highly muscled, but that’s hardly a sin.
We’ve got a lot of back up content here. First up is a story about the New Day using their time machine (Remember that?) to “bring hope and cheer to those cynical and despairing times” in WWE history. This is the kind of stuff I expected. As a five-page back up, it’s harmless enough. But if this had been the main story, I wouldn’t have brought this one home. Not my thing.
WWE artist Rob Schamberger has a four-pager showing us a young Sasha Banks watching Eddie Guerrero on television, and then flashing forward to some of her career highlights. We play up the idea of her being a role model for girls, and her being a part of Eddie’s legacy, as Mick Foley mentioned a few weeks ago. In many ways, these are beautiful pages. Especially as someone who watched Eddie when he was alive.
We then go to a two-page cartoon featuring ’80s stars Tugboat and Earthquake. It looks very “Steamboat Willie” inspired. An unexpected, and very creative surprise.
The issue closes with some one-page tributes to stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Dusty Rhodes, courtesy of Daniel Bayliss. Not a huge fan of how ‘Taker was rendered. But most of this is good stuff.
WWE is in good hands with Dennis Hopeless and the crew at BOOM! Studios. This feels like a labor of love, whereas before it often felt like a labor of…obligation. This could be a lot of fun.
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