Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Ryan Ferrier, Derek Fridolfs, Ross Thibodeaux, Box Brown, Aaron Gillespie
Artists: Daniel Bayliss, Clay McCormack, Rob Guillory, Derek Fridolfs, Selina Espiritu
Release Date: 9th August 2017
Summer Slam – WWE’s “Biggest Party of the Summer” – is heading our way later this month, and whether you’re a diehard WWE loyalist, a weary long-time fan hanging on by a thread or a complete newcomer, there’s likely to be something for you to enjoy in this brand new Summer Slam-themed anthology from BOOM! Studios.
The collection opens with “I Wined And Dined With Kings And Queens”, which frames the classic showdown between “Macho King” Randy Savage and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes back in 1990 from the perspective of an excited onlooker who can’t decide whether he wants to be royalty or a common man. Box Brown’s narrative is a little muddled, and the resolution feels a little too telegraphed to be truly satisfying, but artist Daniel Bayliss lifts things considerably with his tight pencils and a snarling, flamboyant depiction of the Macho King himself. A solid enough opener then, and certainly an era of the WWE – or WWF, if you weeeeell – that would make for a fantastic subject matter for BOOM! Studios’ ongoing series once the current Shield-based drama draws to an end.
Up next we have the stellar “In The Mandible of Madness” from Ryan Ferrier and Clay McCormack which provides the unquestioned highlight of this special with an intriguing, visually striking look at the “Boiler Room Brawl” between Mankind and the Undertaker at Summer Slam 1996. It also commands the bulk of the page count (16), giving Ferrier and McCormack – alongside colourist extraordinaire Dee Cunniffe – ample opportunity to tap into the unique setting and unusual premise of the match. Mankind is definitely a character ripe for the level of additional exploration that comic books can provide, and both McCormack and Ferrier really shine in bringing the deranged one – and his iconic adversary – to life. Visually striking and utterly riveting, even with the outcome being “spoiled” over twenty years ago (good lord do I feel old).
While the largely forgettable bout between The Bushwhackers and The Natural Disasters at Summer Slam 1991 might seem like an odd choice to include here, it’s actually perfectly suited for Derek Fridolfs to provide a silly, slapstick palette cleanser. A suitably cartoony four-page strip that sees Luke and Butch unintentionally outsmarting some of Jimmy Hart’s stable following their uninspired bludgeoning at the event itself, this does everything it needs to in the penultimate slot on the ‘card’.
And finally, we have “Giving The Demon His Due”, based around Finn Bálor’s well received 2016 showdown with Seth Rollins. It’s an interesting build up from writer Aaron Gillespie, with Finn Bálor’s “demon” persona stalking Rollins in the hours leading up to their bout, but sadly has no real pay-off aside from Rollins no-selling the whole thing in the final panel. It’s also hampered slightly by Selina Espiritu’s artwork which, while technically proficient, features characters that don’t actually look anything like their real-life counterparts, Rollins in particular. Enjoyable enough, but it does feel a little short for a ‘main event’, clocking in at just six pages long.
Ultimately then, while it’s a little hit-or-miss at times, there’s no way I can give anything featuring an awesome strip like “In The Mandible of Madness” anything less than four stars, so that’s what I’m going for. And based on this, Ferrier, McCormack and Cunniffe clearly deserve an opportunity to dip into the WWE Universe on a more regular basis. But until then, their brilliant Mankind-based strip is almost worth the cover price on its own. Almost.
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