Written by Dennis Hopeless and Ross Thibodeaux
Art by Serg Acuna and Rob Guillory
Colors by Doug Garbank and Taylor Wells
Letters by Jim Campbell
Review by John Dubrawa
Boom Studios’ WWE: Then. Now. Forever. #1 supplied readers with a taste of the kind of lovable absurdity that could only come from the perfectly-paired tag team of comics and professional wrestling. I’m happy to say that WWE #1, the official start of the series, is equally delightful in every way, though it does require readers to overcome what is a huge misnomer in its title. Typically, a first issue denotes the start of a story; experienced comic readers know this isn’t always (read: almost never) the case, but nevertheless, WWE #1 is unequivocally a continuation of the previously mentioned Then. Now. Forever. #1, not the start of something new. Yeah, a #1 that follows a #1 with two different titles. Oh, comics!
All that ranting and raving aside, those readers with the primer necessary to jump in are handsomely rewarded as writer Dennis Hopeless continues to develop a surprisingly deep narrative derived from an actual WWE storyline from 2014-2015. Using matches that actually occurred on WWE programming and backstage dramatizations, Hopeless is able to convey a relatable protagonist in Seth Rollins, who turned on his best friends in order to advance his career but is finding the grass is not always greener on the other side. Professional wrestling is oftentimes referred to as a “male soap opera” and that’s precisely what Hopeless plays off of here, but there’s also a constant interjecting of hilarious ambushes from Rollins’ former best friend Dean Ambrose that keeps the issue from feeling too melodramatic.
Bringing these larger-than-life personalities to the page is Serg Acuna, who draws these wrestlers just as abnormally ripped as they appear on TV every week, maybe even more so. His renderings are never absurd as to call into mind Image Comics during the 90s or anything, but there’s definitely a level of comic book “enhancement” happening here. However, it completely works. Whenever the issue moves into an actual wrestling match, the flow that Acuna achieves with his panel layouts feels like watching the actual product. Unfortunately, some of the smaller details sometimes get lost in his dynamic panel progression. For instance, I wonder how many eagle-eyed readers are even aware that Seth’s victory early in the issue is on account of another wrestler assisting him in his climb up a ladder for a golden briefcase (yeah, wrestling is weird). It’s just a minor quibble but the fact that Seth gets help in his victories is a sizable plot point that may get overlooked.
WWE #1 also includes a continuation of the backup story in Then. Now. Forever. #1 from writer Ross Thibodeaux and artist Rob Guillory all about a time traveling New Day on the hunt for positivity. If you’re familiar at all with any of this trio’s antics on WWE TV, this is a strangely fitting adventure for them. Guillory’s outlandish renderings of the group are perfect for Thibodeaux’s script, which should be noted consists of Ric Flair pinning a T-Rex, so that’s the kind of ridiculousness to expect. That this adventure is now moving into the late 90s “Attitude Era” has me incredibly stoked for next issue. And this is just an extra story.
Buy! I could make a sizable list of all the absurdity in professional wrestling but a line from WWE #1 pretty much nails it: “Friendship. Brotherhood. Potato Salad. Nonsense.” It’s unfortunate that this book had to be labeled as #1 when it’s actually a continuation of another, differently-titled book that came out two months ago, but alas, comics. Nevertheless, those that were in last time around (and if you laughed at that above line, you’re definitely in) will be glad to know Dennis Hopeless is continuing to bring the world of professional wrestling into comics in an absurd and delightful way.