Then. Now. Forever., BOOM! Studios’ standalone WWE comic book debut, served as something of a zero issue for the new ongoing, simply titled WWE. Issue #1 continues to follow Seth Rollins after he destroyed The Shield in his quest for Championship gold.
WWE #1 (BOOM! Studios)
WWE’s sphere of influence extends well past the confines of Monday Night Raw and Smackdown! Live–stories can continue in YouTube videos, orchestrated Twitter beefs, or any other number of social media outlets. One of the most common complaints from wrestling fans about these, even when they’re good, is: "why the hell wasn’t this on Raw?!" The implication being, if they simply told this part of the story on Raw rather than making the fans seek it out specifically on another medium, the entire story would make much more sense to more viewers.
Wrestling fans have a not-entirely-unearned reputation of complaining quite a bit, but in this case the logic is sound. Raw is too often a bare-bones program where story wrinkles, subtle nods, and foreshadowing are nowhere to be found, even if they’re in abundance on the Backstage Fallout YouTube series following the show.
WWE #1 is a lot like this kind of supplemental material, but for a storyline long since past. We get to see much more in the way of backstage conversations between Seth and Authority leader Triple H regarding his ascent to the top and his decision to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania, and it goes a long way in making an already interesting story from a couple years ago that much more intriguing.
I guess when it comes down to it though, Dennis Hopeless gets to write his own story, without the issues pro wrestling writers have to deal with. For one, Hopeless is given the benefit of hindsight here, and can fill in details without having to worry about where the story is going. Wrestling writers also have to worry about injuries and other real-life problems that can derail even the most meticulously planned storyline that just isn’t an issue in most other storyelling mediums. And, well, let’s be honest: One established, respected comic book writer is probably going to output a better, more coherent story than 30 Hollywood also-rans sitting in a room trying to figure out what will best appease Vince McMahon.
Much of the issue is Seth and former Shield brethren Dean Ambrose fighting in constant, Peter-Griffin-and-the-chicken style throwdowns in a variety locations, including the time-honored tradition of wrestling in a swimming pool (seriously, if you didn’t take a Rock Bottom or two or try a Swanton Bomb off the deck into a pool once or twice in your life, I feel sorry for your childhood). The rest of the issue shows Seth and Triple H scheming to obtain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It fills in the kinds of blanks wrestling fans are sick of having to fill in by themselves, and it’s a joy to see it in such a well written manner. I can think of a dozen wrestling storylines from the past 10 years that I’d love to see Hopeless tackle in a similar manner.
Hopeless must either be a fan of wrestling or have seriously done his homework, because characterization for everyone is spot-on. Seth is the brooding loner who is fueled by solitude–swimming alone, exercising alone, eating dinner alone (while reading some kind of Seth Rollins-branded journal), while Ambrose, the wily guy who just won’t say die, manages to find him wherever he goes.
All of this is rendered in some great artwork by Serg Acuna. WWE fans should have a good time seeing their favorite wrestlers outside of the confines of the ring, and even non-fans should be able to distinctly tell the difference between the different players. Rob Guillory draws the one page New Day-oriented backup in his signature style that’s as fun as the stable it’s based on.
Maybe the most fun art however are the alternate covers, including a crazy-awesome Vice City-inspired Razor Ramon cover:
There are some oddities (why is Triple H eating a chicken leg before his fight against Sting at WrestleMania 31?), and some minor quibbles (even in the fantasy land of comic books, the Curb Stomp is whitewashed from the record books–this time retconned into a Pedigree), but all in all, WWE #1 is a great comic book for wrestling fans, and a great wrestling introduction for comic fans. And as someone who’s both, it’s a must read.