Roman Reigns is WWE Champion, but he’s going to have to get through one former brother while the threat of another looms over his head.
Nine issues in, BOOM! Studios’ WWE comic book series has been about one group: The Shield. Following the career Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns from 2015 on, Dennis Hopeless has provided a unique mix of storylines that happened on television, stories supplementing and further fleshing out those television angles, and completely random stories that WWE would never or could never tell on TV. And the results have been, by and large, pretty great.
After chronicling Rollins’ ascent to the top of the mountain and subsequent career-delaying injury and Ambrose’s weird fling with Sasha Banks, attention turns to the Big Dog himself, Roman Reigns. The year is 2016, and Reigns is defending his WWE Championship against his former brother Seth Rollins — a match made even more intriguing due to the fact that Dean Ambrose won the Money in the Bank briefcase earlier that night, making him the de facto #1 contender and earning him a title match any time, any place.
This is an interesting issue, largely because it addresses something WWE rarely does on television: the fact that no matter how hard he tries, no matter how pure his intentions, the crowd just hates Roman Reigns. The negative reaction Roman gets at Money in the Bank 2016 against the man who destroyed The Shield and joined the evil Authority, the man who by all accounts should be getting those boos, prompts a series of retrospective looks back at moments in Roman’s life where he learned the lesson that you can’t please everybody all the time. People are always going to take sides, and you need to learn to deal with that.
We flash back to Roman playing with wrestling action figures with The Usos when they were kids, complete with a Rikishi cameo, who hilariously is wearing his "RIKISHI" entrance jacket casually around the house about 15-20 years before that gimmick and garment would exist. To further nitpick, Roman is also referred to as "Roman" by his friends and family as a kid and a teenager despite "Roman Reigns" being a ring name created in the early 2010s, but that is an acceptable anachronism. It would provide no benefit to explain that, so it’s best to just go with it.
Serg Acuna’s artwork is, as usual, pretty solid here. Dean Ambrose may be the wrestler he draws the best — he’s expressive, looks like his real life counterpart, and his hair looks pretty spot on. I appreciate the nice little details that prove this creative team has done their homework, such as Deano’s slicked back hair in a flashback panel during his days in The Shield, or everything down to the tron graphics looking authentic. Roman, by contrast, looks oddly like an anime character in this issue — maybe it’s the way his hair is flowing, or the way his eyes are rendered, but he feels a little out of place in some panels. He’s never drawn badly, just with a slightly different style than almost anyone else.
Oddly, the both this issue’s cover and solicit suggest that the issue will heavily involve Bray Wyatt, who doesn’t actually appear at all. So if you were buying this to see the showdown between the Big Dog and the Eater of Worlds, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer.
The backup story this time focuses on Goldust at WrestleMania XII in the infamous Hollywood Backlot Brawl against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and provides some backstory for the outlandish way he presented himself in WWF at the time. Weaving Dusty’s "the view never changes" promo into Goldust’s motivation as a character was brilliant. This is the perfect example of a great backup in this series.
Is It Good?
WWE goes back to basics in #9, getting as far from the wild, out-of-this-world shenanigans as possible with a humanizing look into Roman Reigns’ upbringing and psyche. Dennis Hopeless’s WWE does a better job selling Roman Reigns than Vince McMahon’s WWE does.