Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs
Artists: Dan Mora, Rob Schamberger, Rob Guillory, Daniel Bayliss, Derek Fridolfs
Release Date: 9th November 2016
The larger-than-life spectacle of the WWE and the world of comic books have always made for somewhat reluctant bedfellows, with a catalogue of misfires and lackluster outings making it seem like the idea of a Sports Entertainment-based comic was something that wasn’t ever going to work.
Thankfully however, that preconception may finally be under threat with “Then. Now. Forever”, a brand new WWE anthology title from BOOM! Studios. This first issue is made up of a main story and a series of shorter supplementary stories, and the bulk of the page count here is dedicated to a Shield-focused tale from Dennis Hopeless and Dan Mora’s which is set to branch out into an ongoing series early next year.
It’s an interesting moment in WWE history that works well for this kind of treatment, with Hopeless digging a little deeper into the (fictional) backstory that led to Seth Rollins turning on his brothers back in June of 2014. Kayfabe is preserved here, and we are provided with some entertaining behind the scenes interactions between the trio as they grill steaks, exchange banter and and battle the Wyatt family, both in and out of the ring.
Mora’s artwork, as previously showcased in the Grant Morrison penned Klaus, is visually striking and wonderfully dynamic, with the characters all instantly recognisable from their real life counterparts, and some great action moments along the way. It’s a little cartoony and stylised, feeling a lot like a WWE animated series (no bad thing), but this approach definitely works a lot better than an ultra-realistic, gritty aesthetic likely ever would.
While the story only really feels like an introduction to the main ongoing series to come, it does a great job of cementing the style and tone of what’s to come, and – based on what I’ve seen here – I’m definitely planning on picking up the main book when it hits shelves in January.
That’s not all readers can expect from this issue, however, with more extras and supplementary material than you can shake a steel chair at. Ross Thibodeaux’s “Optimistic Odyssey” New Day story doesn’t quite land as well as the others, taking the form of a somewhat silly time-travel romp, although Rob Guillory’s artwork – including a fantastic Neanderthal Nature Boy – is always well worth a look.
Rob Schamberger’s wonderfully painted four-page Sasha Banks story is probably the highlight of the backup strips, with a poignant and beautifully illustrated look at the Women’s division standout. Derek Fridolfs’ Tugboat story is fairly unremarkable, although the retro-inspired “Steamboat Willie”-esque artwork is a brilliant choice for this particular strip. And finally, the first issue also includes each of Daniel Bayliss’ one-page SDCC-exclusive comics, showcasing the likes of The Undertaker, The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dusty Rhodes.
Overall then, while the undercard is a little inconsistent at times, Hopeless and Mora’s main event delivers in spades, providing an intriguing and impressively illustrated look at one of the most shocking moments in recent WWE history. And, while the prospect of a WWE comic book may have even diehard wrestling fans rolling their eyes and looking elsewhere, the clear affection that the creators have for the subject matter – and the impressively earnest execution, in the main story at least – make this a truly worthwhile purchase.
PREVIEW ARTWORK & VARIANT COVERS
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