Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Serg Acuña, Dan Mora
Release Date: August 2nd, 2017
The first volume of BOOM! Studios’ ongoing WWE monthly collects issues #1-4 of the series, along with the “Then. Now. Forever.” special, and tells the story behind Seth Rollins’ betrayal of his SHIELD brothers and subsequent ascent to the WWE Title.
Writer Dennis Hopeless does a solid job of fleshing out the unseen backstory of the events we’re all familiar with from the WWE Network, although he’s admittedly a little hamstrung by the existing storyline beats. I mean, we already know Seth is going to turn on his brothers. We know Seth is going to win Money in the Bank and cash in the briefcase as part of the Wrestlemania main event. And we know all about his potentially career-ending knee injury. As such, there aren’t many surprises to be had here, which is an inherent downfall of this type of approach – i.e. adapting existing WWE storylines into a comic book format.
That said, we do get a lot more of an insight into the mindset of Rollins throughout the course of the journey, and get to see some of the backstage interactions and machinations that our imaginations had to fill in for ourselves when they played out on our TV screens a few years ago. It does get a little wild at times – Bray Wyatt trying to run down Rollins in a car serves little purpose, and a New Day cameo in issue three feels particularly jarring – but for the most part this feels like a natural story with some realistic character motivations and an intriguing (if predictable) central arc.
It also looks the part, with Dan Mora handling art duties for the prologue-esque “Then. Now. Forever” special, and Serg Acuña taking over for the main ongoing series. All the characters are instantly recognisable and the in-ring sequences, while frustratingly abridged for the most part, are all fluid and kinetic. Both artists also adopt a slightly cartoony, slightly exaggerated approach that helps to give the comic a suitably all-ages feel, no doubt in an attempt to tap into the younger demographic that the WWE seems to be primarily aimed at these days.
The story does lose steam slightly in the final chapter, becoming a little too cartoony as Rollins tries to sneak into the arena to deliver his statement of intent to new Champion and former SHIELD brother Roman Reigns. It has an almost slapstick feel at times, a recurring theme throughout the series, where legitimately interesting moments – the rising tensions between the SHIELD, Rollins’ emotionally challenging rehab process – are undermined by unnecessary silliness. A disappointing approach, although I fully accept that a gritty, ultra-serious approach wouldn’t ever really work alongside the glitz and glamour of the present-day WWE.
The next volume is set to focus on the “Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose, hopefully giving us more than just a different perspective on these same events, and it’s going to be interesting to see whether there’s any significant shift in tone as we move from one protagonist to the next. Ultimately though, WWE fans will get a real kick out of the story and from watching all the fully kayfabed behind-the-scenes drama unfold, although it’s pretty obvious that the target audience of younger readers will enjoy this series a heck of a lot more than us cynical, jaded thirtysomethings.
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