This month is dedicated to my favorite wrestling going on right now, NXT. Boom! Studios weekly event focuses on telling the wrestling world stories behind some of the brand’s most charismatic characters and unforgettable moments.
WWE: NXT Takeover – Proving Ground #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Kendall Goode
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Last Week’s NXT Take Over: The Blueprint was about introducing WWE’s developmental stage through the story of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. In Proving Ground, readers get a more true-to-life behind the scenes story of one of WWE’s most unlikely current superstars, Samoa Joe.
If you’ve never watched TNA Impact or Ring of Honor wrestling then Samoa Joe probably came out of nowhere for you. In reality, his nearly 20-year career has seen him perform all over the globe, in the ring, with CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and current WWE Champion AJ Styles. NXT: Proving Ground is a behind the scenes story written by Dennis Hopeless but much of feeling he chronicles was how WWE actually saw Joe. When he was signed to NXT, Joe was an acquisition intended only to keep that brand thriving by being utilized as a big indie name who could put over talent WWE wanted on the main roster. Through the vocalization of the fan base and some surprising T-Shirt sales numbers, Joe went on to debut on Monday Night Raw.
This comic is actually a believable look at what someone with the experience of a Samoa Joe could have felt walking into WWE’s developmental stage. His narration shows just how big the chip on his shoulder was after seeing wrestlers he’d previously outperformed get pushed into a spotlight he felt he deserved. The best part of the book is its core chronicling his team up with Finn Balor as they won the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and the subsequent turn by Joe that followed. Hopeless writes the moments as if he pulled them straight off of the WWE Network. It even managed to have that feeling when you’re watching wrestling and you know this guy is going to turn on that guy and you’re just anxious for it to happen.
This issue is sharp, focused, and well executed. Instead of telling snippets of stories that end up cut short and unfulfilled, Proving Ground exclusively documents the lead to the feud between Joe and Finn Balor. Combine that with 10x better art than we got in The Blueprint issue. Kendall Goode is superb when it comes to drawing WWE stories. The artist illustrates every superstar you see in this book as though it was concept art for WWE action figures. Faces give off the acting these wrestlers need to do for camera on WWE television and the action doesn’t look like parts of their bodies are being pulled into other dimensions. Fight moments are angled in ways that distinctly set them apart from the dialogue and demand your attention. It’s the right kind of art for a story that even though is part of scripted entertainment, has some basis in a reality we can all tune into every Wednesday night on the WWE Network. (Note: I wasn’t paid to say that, I just believe everyone should watch NXT)
My only problem with this book is how it was solicited to previews and stores. The second week of the NXT event explodes as the mysterious Demon King, Finn Balor, enters the NXT Universe to be confronted by Samoa Joe.
It would lead you to believe we were going to get the origin of Demon King Balor but we only get one or two panels of Balor’s creepy badass alter-ego. This is very much Samoa Joe’s story, Balor just happens to be the one he would go on to beat. Anyone who doesn’t like Samoa Joe and wanted a Finn Balor centric story is going to be disappointed, but I’m a big Samoa Joe mark so I can’t buy enough copies.
Hey Dennis Hopeless, please write a comic that explains why Finn Balor does the exact same moves in his demon persona as he does as smiling leather jacket wearing Finn? Like shouldn’t he have some kind of alternate move set that he can only execute when he’s possessed by the demon?
Here’s the rest of this week’s #1’s
WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #1 (BOOM!/Boom Box)
(W) Jackie Ball (A/CA) Maddi Gonzalez
JOE GOLEM #1 (DARK HORSE)
(W) Mike Mignola, Chris Golden (A) Peter Bergting (CA) David Palumbo
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 (DC/Vertigo)
(W) Nalo Hopkinson (A) Dominike “Domo” Stanton (CA) Sean Andrew Murray
CEMETERY BEACH #1 (IMAGE)
(W) Warren Ellis (A/CA) Jason Howard
MCMLXXV #1 (IMAGE)
(W) Joe Casey (A/CA) Ian MacEwan
ICEMAN #1 (MARVEL)
(W) Sina Grace (A) Nathan Stockman (CA) W. Scott Forbes
MARVEL RISING OMEGA #1 (Marvel)
(W) Devin Grayson (A) Marco Failla, Roberto Di Salvo (CA) Helen Chen
ARCHIE 1941 #1 (Archie Comics)
(W) Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn (A) Kelly Fitzpatrick (A/CA) Peter Krause
BLOOD REALM #1 (Alterna Comics)
(W) Robert Geronimo (A/CA) Robert Geronimo
DELLEC VOL 2 #1 (ASPEN COMICS)
(W) Vince Hernandez, Frank Mastromauro (A) Andre Risso, Michael Sta. Maria (CA) Micah Gunnell
EXILIUM #1 (Alterna Comics)
(W) Ben Slabak (A) Salo Farias, Marc Sintes (CA) Graeme Jackson
MOON MAID #1 (American Mythology)
(W) Christopher Mills (A) Gabriel Rearte (CA) Cyrus Mesarcia
POSER #1 (Waxwork Comics)
(W) Matt Miner (A) Clay McCormack
SNIPER ELITE RESISTANCE #1 (Rebellion)
(W) Keith Richardson (A/CA) Patrick Goddard
WRONG EARTH #1 (AHOY COMICS)
(W) Tom Peyer, Paul Constant, Grant Morrison (A) Juan Castro, Shannon Wheeler (A/CA) Jamal Igle