Well, two words put together. It’s WrestleMania week. This Sunday the wrestling fan’s Superbowl takes place live on Pay-per…WWE Network. It’s a face punching extravaganza thrill ride which we’ll do predictions on this Saturday. Since it is all about wrestling this week, with no other thing happening in the pop culture world, especially not in Anaheim California; we’re going to run down Boom! Studios WrestleMania special one-shot and let you know if it’s a dud or WONDERfull.
As always you can check out the fine work the boys do running down all of the Marvel and DC books on their respective recaps.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA 2017 SPECIAL #1
Story: Box Brown, Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Aubrey Sitterson, Andy Belanger, Andrew Stott
Art: Jorge Corona, Dan Mora, Rob Guillory, Kendall Goode, Andy Belanger
Color: Gabriel Cassata, Joana Lafuente, Taylor Wells, Dee Cunniffe
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Let’s run this down chapter by chapter of this oversized special issue. First up is “Ladder Match” written by Box Brown with art by Jorge Corona. Who could forget the classic first WrestleMania ladder match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels. Two icons of the 90’s battled over the undisputed Intercontinental title. Box Brown really goes for that kayfabe cheesiness fans were just about set to leave behind in favor of more grounded characters. For as minimal as the dialogue tried to be it still feels a bit too much with the overuse of hamming it up.
Am I suppose to think for one second that Razor Ramon has no idea what’s under the mats outside the ring? Even in a time period that had a prison guard, a barber, a model, and the Brooklyn Brawler it still feels a bit of more parody than what we know from wrestling. Though Jorge Corona’s illustration work is solid in capturing key moments of the match which took place at WrestleMania X, it’s not aided by the colors of Gabriel Cassata. There are just some panels that stuck out like a sore thumb where you couldn’t see a difference between the ring and the floor outside. Or a panel that should contain some semblance of a crowd could have been done up by adding some FX, instead, we get the two men looking like they’re wrestling in a room with no windows or doors. So far not a great start.
Our second tale is “The Long Con” by regular series writer Dennis Hopeless alongside Dan Mora who did spectacular work in the Then.Now.Forever special last year. Much like he’s doing on the regular ongoing book, Hopeless gets to make up a behind the scenes story about what wrestling fans see on screen. Here he tells the story of current WWE exec Paul Levesque’s (AKA Triple H) rise from top wrestler to corporate bigwig. In the comic, the audience journeys with Triple H from his victory over Chris Jericho for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship at WreslteMania X8, his quadricep tear during a tag-team match with Stone Cold Steve Austin, to the rehab video packages that made fans excited for his return. Hopeless weaves a thread through these non-chronological moments like an expert author who happened to be writing wrestling fan fiction his whole life. He gets what we love to see most about characters like Vince McMahon, Stephanie, and Hunter; being the coy heels scheming to get what they want. The dialogue is on point to what avid viewers of sports entertainment have seen every week and is definitely best of all the stories in this book. It’s a great story that carves out its own emotional depth and best of all they didn’t have to license “Beautiful Day” to do it.
Also included in the book is part three of “The New Day’s Optimistic Odyssey” by Ross Thibodeaux and Rob Guillory. I’ve been enjoying the pair creating these short comics which see trio tag team of The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods) travel through time in a cardboard box adding positivity to certain characters that need it. Just an example, they give a going away present to the 1995 women’s champion Alundra Blayze before she can go on rival WCW Monday Nitro and dump the belt in a garbage can on live television. I absolutely love how much research Ross and Rob pull out for these mini-comics and they layer it with all the pop culture reference wit New Day bring to TV every week. Part four can’t come soon enough and before this is over I’d like to see them go back and prevent the “Festival of Friendship”.
The surprise of the book comes from “You’re Good, But…” by Aubrey Sitterson and Kendall Goode. It goes a bit more in deep with that time period when wrestler Daniel Bryan went from getting over with the crowd to –they can’t ignore you anymore– white hot. Wrestling fans knew how good of a talent Daniel Bryan was from his time as The American Dragon and we cheered for him in WWE. No matter how loud of a pop the superstar received it never seemed quite enough in the eyes of corporate to look at him and say this is “the guy”. The months leading into WrestleMania in New Orleans were something special from the cage match dismantling of the Wyatt family to “occupy Raw”, looking back on it now, it was something WWE had not been able to achieve in the age of information. As fans, we all know wrestling is scripted television with circus performers, but knowing the backstage happenings through websites and insiders peeled away more of the illusion we need to enjoy wrestling. On TV, Daniel Bryan’s struggle to prove himself not only the best wrestler in the world but also someone who could be the face of the company had a layer that suspended our disbelief at times. Aubrey Sitterson writes this story so close to the character could be inserted into a biography of Daniel Bryan. He paces it so fluidly making it the leanest, easiest, and one of the most impactful of the book. My only gripe is Kendall Goode’s art feels a bit uneven at times. Just look at how superb the initial page of Daniel in the locker room is to how much of a mutant he looks like in the last panel of the following one. I would have called it the best overall package of the book if not for the art.
Finally, Southern Cross’ artist Andy Belanger and Andrew Stott make up a history based on the lives of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. These happen to be two of my current favorite wrestlers to not use the phrase “Bay Bay” or be Kenny Omega. Stott and Belanger’s aim in making up a history between Zayn and Owens was admirable. It even works on a level for casual fans, which is the audience WWE and Boom! want to appeal most to. Like most things in wrestling, logic is thrown out the window and you just have to accept these guys were friends as children and Sami was likely suicidal having fat little kid Kevin Owens constantly pick on him. I’m extremely mixed on this final tale as it’s enjoyable in some spots then a headscratcher in others. They do capture the beautiful on screen fight forever Batman vs the Joker vibe the two performers have carved out over their career. So that’s something.
Overall WWE WrestleMania Special 2017 is worth the price tag. It’s the season for casual wrestling fans which is who the book caters to. Along the way, it never closes the gate of its enjoyability to people who’ve never seen wrestling. Something I didn’t expect of the come. Non-wrestling fan readers who just like good comics will enjoy some of these stories. With the exception of the Ladder Match story, each tale is a fine read looking at the legacy of WWE’s biggest event.
[WON] WrestleMania 2017 Special… YES! YES! YES!
Here’s a list of this week’s #1 comics:
- LOBSTER JOHNSON PIRATES GHOST #1 (DARK HORSE)
- ADAM STRANGE FUTURE QUEST SPECIAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- BOOSTER GOLD FLINTSTONES SPECIAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- TITANS ANNUAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- GREEN LANTERN SPACE GHOST SPECIAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- ORPHAN BLACK DEVIATIONS #1 (IDW)
- INHUMANS PRIME #1 (MARVEL)
- X-MEN PRIME #1 (MARVEL)
- DOC SAVAGE RING OF FIRE #1 (DYNAMITE)
- KARMA POLICE #1 (VAULT)
- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #1 (ACTION LAB)