Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Dennis Hopeless, Andy Belanger, Box Brown, Aubrey Sitterson, Ross Thibodeaux
Artists: Jorge Corona, Andy Belanger, Rob Guillory
Release Date: 29th March 2017
With the WWE’s “Ultimate Thrill Ride” Wrestlemania right around the corner, it makes sense that BOOM! Studios would release this, a special giant-sized anthology featuring a selection of ‘Mania-themed stories and strips. And, given the already enjoyable nature of their ongoing WWE series, there’s definitely a lot of potential here to tell some fairly interesting stories.
The first strip, from Box Brown and Jorge Corona, serves as the unquestioned highlight of the book, providing a humorous and dynamically illustrated look at the iconic ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at Wrestlemania 10. Brown delivers some fantastic comedic moments, such as poor Bret Hart watching from backstage, despondent that the pair aren’t just using the ladder for climbing, or Razor taunting Diesel as he’s ejected from ringside, saying “We’re never gonna be friends again! Never!” Corona’s artwork is suitably cartoony, matching the tone of the writing perfectly, and while it doesn’t quite emphasise the epic drama of what has been called one of the greatest matches of all time, it’s still guaranteed to keep a smile on the reader’s face from start to finish.
The second strip, from ongoing series writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Dan Mora, provides an intriguing look into the mindset of Triple H ahead of, and during, his eminently forgettable showdown with Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 18. You remember that one, right? The match that played out to near silence, having the extreme misfortune of having to follow the frankly legendary bout between Hollywood Hogan and The Rock? As with the ongoing series, Hopeless marries gravitas with humour here, adding more depth and nuance to the Undisputed Title showdown than WWE creative ever managed for the match itself. Mora’s artwork is typically clean and expressive, and the subtle glances between Trip and Steph during the match – not to mention their post-match resolution to one another – makes this a really enjoyable read.
I’m not quite sure who (“Who? Who?? Who??“) thought it’d be a good idea to include a New Day story in this collection, being that it has absolutely nothing to do with Wrestlemania, but if it provides an excuse for artist Rob Guillory to crank out a few more of his gloriously caricatured illustrations of WWE Superstars, then I guess it’s forgivable. This short strips sees the New Day continuing their “Optimistic Odyssey” from BOOM!’s ongoing WWE series, with Ross Thibodeaux throwing in some neat visual gags – such as Bray Wyatt being gifted a comfy recliner instead of his trademark rocking chair – as the trio continue to spread their distinctive brand of cheer throughout the timestream.
“You’re Good, But…” from Aubrey Sitterson and Kendall Goode recaps the WWE career of Daniel Bryan, from his early moments as The Miz’s rookie on the original NXT show all the way to his dazzling underdog title win at Wrestlemania 30. Goode’s art a little sterile at times, but Bryan himself looks great and all the supporting characters in his story are instantly recognisable. Sure, it doesn’t really provide any additional insight or depth to the story as we know it, but it’s still a great visual illustration of what was a fantastic WWE career.
Finally, Andrew Stott and Andy Belanger combine to take a look at the lifelong rivalry between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, from their childhood playing with wrestling figures after school to doing battle on the grandest stage of them all. Stott does a great job with the younger versions of these characters, throwing in some interesting moments such as Owens saving Zayn from high school bullies, only to gradually become the bully himself. Visually, Belanger delivers the goods like he always does, and if we don’t get to see him illustrating more WWE stories somewhere down the line, it’ll be an absolute crime.
Ultimately then, while some of the choices of strips are a little puzzling, this is still an impressive collection that pays homage to some of the most memorable (Shawn and Razor, Daniel Bryan’s underdog victory) and most underwhelming (Triple H and Jericho) Wrestlemania moments. Highly recommended for WWE fans, and a perfect way to whet your appetite for the “Ultimate Thrill Ride” this weekend.
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