This week was a bit light on debuting comics and one-shots, so the column that reviews #1 comics 1 day after they release is diving deep into the WWE SummerSlam 2017 Special from Boom! Studios.
WWE SummerSlam 2017 Special
Story: Box Brown, Ryan Ferrier, Ross Thibodeaux, Derek Fridolfs, Aaron Gillespie
Art: Daniel Bayliss, Clay McCormack, Rob Guillory, Derek Fridolfs, Selina Espiritu, Rob Schamberger (Cover)
Colors: Dee Cunniffe (Mandible of Madness), Taylor Wells, (Optimistic Odessey), Fred Stresing (Bushwhackers v Natural Disasters), Jeremy Lawson (Give The Demon His Due)
Published by: Boom! Studios
I’ve enjoyed the Boom! Studios run of WWE comics. A series made up of back stories to on screen events such as The Shield split are the right blend of cartoon and relevance for wrestling fans. As it’s been the trend for Boom! Studios, whenever we get close to a major WWE PPV a special one-shot comes out featuring short stories by various writers and artists based on matches in the event’s history. Usually, these special issues at the least match the quality we get from the regular series, but it simply isn’t the case here.
Most of the stories that don’t work in this issue share one common flaw, such as with most of WWE’s current on-screen stories, they lack a satisfying payoff. The opening tale, “I Wined and Dined With Kings and Queens” by Box Brown is the best example of that. There’s probably a special place in hell reserved for any critic who would speak ill of a story featuring the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Macho Man Randy Savage, but the Hall of Famers undoubtedly deserve a story that makes them more than interchangeable pieces. Centered around the pair’s SummerSlam 1990 match in Philadelphia, the superstars are ham-fistedly sacrificed in favor three average joe fans whom we’re actually never given any reason to care about. So much so that we only learn the first name of one of them, a lunk head in track pants and a fanny pack named Ralph. Fucking, Ralph. Could you at least have put more thought into the name, maybe Colton Meatstalker, Rodrigo Powers? I’d have even settled for Fred Beef. The whole short feels oversimplified even for the simple theme of blue collar vs. the 1%. The quote-unquote big payoff is dusty pointing at the crowd mid-match in a gesture that wants you to believe there’s something special about Ralph. You’re forced to ignore the fact the two had no interaction to warrant any kind of emotional response. A story with two of the industry’s most iconic wrestlers deserves better. At least Daniel Bayliss art is something to rave about, it fits the end of the 80’s era of wrestling marked by over-the-top neon colors and pop art aesthetics.
The other tag title for worst story goes to “Give The Demon His Due”, a tale about the lead up to Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor from SummerSlam last year. It’s meant to be an introspective look into what we think Seth’s kayfabe (refers to the portrayal of events within the industry as real) mindset going into the match to crown the first ever Universal Champion. In the end it amounts to six pages of Rollins being stalked by Finn Balor’s demon side which is depicted as McFlurry consisting of a Xenomorph smashed with Freddy Kruger bits. I kept finding myself asking why is this even a story? Out of all the material surrounding the match and the tragic injury of Balor at SS, you chose to tell this unnecessary piece. What’s the biggest crime of all is you skipped over this piece of gold:
Seth Rollins promo where he mocked Fergal Devitt’s choice of wrestling names as if Prince Devitt wasn’t a weird one either. Do a story where Seth meets Sylvester Stallone to train or something about Balor’s journey to get to his first major WWE PPV. I only say this from a place of wanting something good, cause when creators push themselves we all get good comics and that’s just good for everybody; Aaron Gillespie as the wrestling fan I know you are take a breath mate and do some diligence.
The book’s not all a waste like watching WWE Velocity, it has more than its share of bright spots. Ross Thibodeaux and Rob Guillory finish their ongoing “The New Day’s Optimistic Odyssey”. Xavier, Big E, and Kofi Kingston battle the cosmic unicorns of pessimism to discover the true power of positivity. Rob Guillory is a master of surreal style storytelling and his Bill&Ted’s Excellent Adventure vibe fits the tale told by the writer to the letter. This part of the book definitely ain’t booty.
Likewise, Derek Fridolfs for some reason picked the tag team match between The Bushwhackers and The Natural Disasters, but damn if he didn’t make it fun. It utilizes the one thing in wrestling that’s always entertaining; the back stage food fight. Fridolfs captures Luke and Butch’s signature moves which include licking people and biting them on the a**. What more could a wrestling fan ask for out of a very short funny story?
Perhaps the book’s best story is a behind the scenes look at The Undertaker vs. Mankind’s boiler room brawl of 1996. You’ll remember it as the moment, yard having big evil’s manager Paul Bearer turned on the dead man. It’s creepy psychotic introspection into the Hannibal Lecter phase of Mankind. Writer Ryan Ferrier should be commended for the stellar attention to detail put in this piece. Unlike the Seth Rollins story, this one has lines pulled directly from WWE TV such as “They love him for the same reasons they hate me.” The writer picks some of the best on-camera work done by Mankind and Taker then simply lays it all out in a natural sequential story. McCormack’s art matches the tone of the story in the emotion of dialogue heavy parts but some of the action scenes don’t make a lot of sense…even for wrestling. Bodies flying through the air look more superhero than wrestling and other moments take effects short cuts that don’t make sense like blast lines when Mankind comes up from the ring. “In The Mandible of Madness” ends in a good payoff but takes a 50/50 route to get there.
WWE SummerSlam 2017 Special is a book hindered ultimately by its editorial. It isn’t often you can see the flaws of a comic book and trace them up the chain but the decisions to either ask for or approve these pitches funnel through an editor. These pages are littered with awkward story choices I’d like to believe were from a paygrade above creator. As a reader, getting to the last page of the book makes you ask yourself why Boom! would choose the angles for some of these matches. It takes a lot to be telling senseless stories about an industry built on not making sense. If you’re telling a story from SummerSlam 1990 where’s the story about Rick The Model Martel kayfabe fleeing to Pairs to avoid Tito Santana?
[Done] WW SummerSlam 2017 Special definitely didn’t eat its Booty-O’s cause this thing is booty!
Here’s the rest of this week’s debuting comics:
- MISTER MIRACLE #1 (DC Comics)
- FIRST STRIKE #1 (IDW Comics)
- REDLANDS #1 (Image Comics)
- GENERATIONS PHOENIX & JEAN GREY #1 (Marvel)
- INHUMANS ONCE FUTURE KINGS #1 (Marvel)
- ZOMBIES ASSEMBLE 2 #1 (Marvel)
- QUAKE CHAMPIONS #1 (Titan)
- SHADOW #1 (Dynamite)