Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer(s): Aaron Gillespie, Kevin Panetta, Julian May, Ryan Ferrier
Artwork: Michael Mulipola, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Hyeonjin Kim, Kendal Goode
Colours: Doug Garbark, Jeremy Lawson, Jeremy Lawson
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 1st August 2018
To date, BOOM! Studios’ WWE output has, with the exception of the occasional event-themed special, focused primarily on the modern era of Sports Entertainment. This latest offering, however, focuses on what many consider to be the absolute pinnacle of WWE history – the wild, irreverent and raucous Attitude Era.
This collection features four short stories, each focusing on some of the more significant moments or characters from this iconic period in wrestling history. Almost all the key players are here, with the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and Mankind all fully represented, and while there are always going to be omissions in terms of certain “classic” moments, the creators here do a solid job of covering a nice variety of storylines and matches.
Up first we have “Funeral for a Rattlesnake” from Aaron Gillespie and Micheal Mulipola, which focuses on the rather enjoyable angle from 1999 where The Rock threw “Stone Cold” Steve Austin off a bridge. Austin’s inner monologue provides the narration here as he swims to shore, dusts himself off and crashes the Rock’s “funeral” for him in typical “Stone Cold” fashion. It’s an interesting subject matter for a story, and while Austin’s allusions to how tired and beat-up he is – complete with the awesome “flashback” splash page featuring some of the key moments in his career – are definitely enjoyable, there’s not quite enough meat here to really make the story pop.
That said, Mulipola definitely does the characters justice, with a thick-lined style that makes for some dynamic exchanges and splash pages. As an interesting side note, it seems like big Dwayne is perhaps in the same licensing grey area as the McMahons, with almost all of the scenes featuring him being viewed from behind or with his face obscured. This diminishes things slightly, although Mulipola does manage to include the iconic People’s Eyebrow to help underscore the end of the story, providing a fun but forgettable opening to this collection.
Up next we have “3 Faces of Foley”, which is perhaps my favourite of the four stories. In a creative move, writer Kevin Panetta tweaks the format of the WWE Network’s “Table for 3” show to have all three personas of Mick Foley – Dude Love, Cactus Jack and Mankind – sitting down to enjoy a meal and chat about old times. “Domo” Stanton’s artwork is suitably authentic throughout, and really helps to do the flashback scenes justice. As with a lot of BOOM’s WWE output, the visual side of things can be a tad sterile at times, but each of the three (or should that be four?) characters are well illustrated, and the inevitable breakdown between the different faces of Foley provides a suitably smile-raising conclusion.
The penultimate story, “Trish vs. Lita”, focuses squarely on the history-making Monday Night RAW main event for the Women’s Championship back in 2004 – the first time Vince had allowed the women to headline his weekly show. Writer Julian May does a cracking job of recapping the story that led to this historic title defence, setting the table beautifully for a blow-by-blow account of the match itself. Interestingly, the match isn’t viewed from the perspective of either participant, as has become the norm for BOOM!’s WWE output, but instead lets the limited dialogue between them during the match carry the flow of the story. It’s artist Hyeonjin Kim who really sells this one though, with a fantastic recreation of both competitors, as well as some of the key moments in the match. Thankfully he doesn’t recreate Lita’s stomach-churningly awkward tope too accurately, although the energy and impact in that particular panel is a definite highlight. A great tribute to what was a truly historic match.
Finally, we have “Behind Enemy Lines”, which focuses on one of the most memorable moments of the “Monday Night Wars” – Degeneration-X’s tank-assisted assault on WCW back in 1998. Ryan Ferrier and Kendal Goode do an enjoyable job of fleshing out this moment as DX decide to keep their momentum going by invading WCW’s Power Plant training facility, prompting Eric Bischoff to try and enlist the now duo of Hall and Nash to defend his company. There’s some amusing banter between the different members of DX, with X-Pac adopting something of a “village idiot” role, followed by a satisfying showdown between the two sides. It doesn’t quite hit the mark as squarely as the preceding two stories, but the artwork is fun, and the whole thing definitely does enough to end this special on a high.
At the end of the day, if you’re even remotely familiar with BOOM!’s WWE output, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. And while the fun in this series usually comes from seeing the fictional, fully kayfabed “behind the scenes” sequences that take place away from the cameras, the strongest story here is the one which is fixed squarely on the in-ring action. Yes, the first and last stories dip ever so slightly, but the middle two are more than worth the cover price on their own, and if you’re a fan of the WWE – particularly a younger fan – then this latest anthology is definitely well worth a look.