Once again, for those of us who are fans of the art of professional wrestling, it is a special time of year: WrestleMania season. BOOM!’s WWE WrestleMania 2019 Special finds a way to address some of the best moments over the past few years, mixing the kayfabe world of wrestling with the reality in which we live the rest of the week. The execution is a bit hit or miss, including a completely different story about the origins of The Undertaker and Kane from earlier BOOM! comics, but rewriting the past is a WWE tradition (see: Warrior Award).
In “Queen vs Empress,” writer Bill Hanstock and artist Hyeonjin Kim tell the in-ring story of the 2017 match between Charlotte Flair and the then-undefeated SmackDown Women’s Champion, Asuka. The storyline set up is enhanced in this retelling, hitting on both women’s backstories, including comparing Charlotte to her Hall of Fame father, Ric Flair. The build up and match are drawn with the precision of an anime action sequence, highlighting the biggest moves and the eventual win by Flair. In light of Charlotte tapping out Asuka again this past week on SmackDown Live, this feud is far from over in the comics or in the ring.
“The Destruction of Brothers” by Andrew Stott and Andy Belanger attempts a retelling of the history between Kane and The Undertaker and their match at WrestleMania XIV. At this point, Paul Bearer was antagonizing Taker and a brother vs brother match was the only solution. The creepy little funeral home kids backstory would normally be a welcome addition to the long, sordid history of the mysterious brothers, but BOOM! has already told this story completely differently in a special dedicated the The Deadman himself. I know consistency isn’t exactly a hallmark of WWE or the comics industry, but this feels like a real miss.
“King Without a Crown” also does a smidge of retconning considering several issues of BOOM!’s WWE comic have been dedicated to the story of AJ Styles and his beef with Shinsuke Nakamura. Writer Lan Pitts and artist Serge Acuña put together an excellent story leading up to Styles and Nakamura clashing at ‘Mania, even working in Shinsuke’s absolute love of surfing. While the previous issues told the story more from Styles’ point of view, this really captures Nakamaura’s need to prove himself on the world stage. The final shot of the story is a perfect capturing of Shinsuke prior to his change in character post-Mania.
Finally, what may have been one of the most emotional matches of all time: Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair at WrestleMania XXIV in what would be Flair’s last WWE match. In “I’m Sorry. I Love You,” writer Ryan Ferrier and artist Kendall Goode dive into the history and mind of Shawn Michaels’ career leading him to the point where one last superkick would retire the 16-time world champion. While the story is excellently shaped, showing the purposeful parallels between the mens’ careers, Goode’s art does not do the epicness of the story justice. Flair comes off as flabby and inconsistent, Michaels is often featureless with only major panels giving him any real definition or emotion in his face. In the eleven years since Michaels covered Flair, crying as he retired his hero and friend, wrestling fans have seen the iconic image of him sadly saying to his weeping opponent “I’m sorry. I love you.” For a story that has played long after both have retired and will continue long after both have had the 10-bell salute ring for them, this deserves better.
BOOM!’s WWE WrestleMania 2019 Special is a hit and miss collection of some of the greatest stories told over the first 34 events. The title suffers from inconsistency at times, much like the event it celebrates, but in the end, tells the stories that we wrestling fans love and share over and over again. In the end, WrestleMania has something for everyone and this comic special reflects that well. There are another couple dozen stories from over the years that can be told in this new form with more to come. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.