Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Bill Hanstock, Andrew Stott, Lan Pitts, Ryan Ferrier,
Artists: Hyeonjin Kim, Andy Belanger, Kendall Goode, Serg Acuña
Colorists: Wesdllei Manoel, Lee Loughridge, Doug Garbark
Letterers: Jim Campbell, Serge Lapointe
Release Date: 27th March 2019
We’re officially on the road to WWE’s Wrestlemania, which means it’s time for BOOM! Studios to turn out their annual WM special, with an assortment of comic creators giving their own interpretations of some of the most iconic or memorable moments in the history of the event.
This year’s anthology features some absolute doozys, and with an impressive collection of BOOM! WWE comic regulars involved – including the likes of BCP favourites Hyeonjim Kim and Andy Belanger – this has the potential to be one of the best releases yet.
It’s perhaps fitting that the anthology opens with its strongest story, as Bill Hanstock and Hyeonjin Kim help breathe new life into the epic showdown between Charlotte and Asuka from last year’s Mania in “Queen vs. Empress”. Like a lot of BOOM!’s WWE output, it’s essentially a visual retelling of the storyline and match with added inner monologue narration, but the approach works incredibly well here as both Asuka and Charlotte share their thoughts before, after and during their show-stealing effort. Kim nails the key moments of the match with a real (no pun intended) flair, and the whole thing works well in emphasising the stakes of the encounter while also giving a little added context and insight into both women’s motivations. A cracking start. Whooooo!
The next story adopts a slightly different approach as Andrew Stott and Andy Belanger take a deep dive into the history of The Undertaker and Kane in “The Destruction of Brothers”. Yes, there’s still an in-ring portion to the story, with the Brothers of Destruction knocking lumps out of each other on the grandest stage of them all, but the real appeal of this story is the way it keeps flicking back to the pair’s formative years as children living and working in a funeral parlour. This to me was always the most appealing part of these characters, and the sleazy advances of Paul Bearer towards Taker’s mother are skin-crawlingly great. Belanger’s artwork is a delight, with his familiar, ever-so-slightly-cartoony approach working wonders to deliver the story and provide a genuinely unsettling depiction of ‘Uncle Paul’. Cracking stuff, and a story that really deserves to be expanded in the main ongoing series somewhere down the line.
The penultimate story, “King Without A Crown”, takes us away from the ring altogether as Lan Pitts and Serg Acuna check in with Shinsuke Nakamura’s during the build-up to his match with AJ Styles at last year’s show. It’s a slower-paced, character-focused affair that digs a little deeper into Shinsuke’s nagging feeling that he isn’t fulfilling his real potential (a sentiment echoed by a lot of WWE fans during this time as the powers-that-be steadfastly refused to really pull the trigger on the wildly popular NXT call-up). We also get a cameo from the Empress of Tomorrow, and the final moments have an added impact for those who know how the match with AJ would ultimately end. An enjoyable look at an intriguing character with some typically slick and smooth artwork from Acuna.
Finally, Ryan Ferrier and Kendall Goode get the opportunity to bring one of the all-time great moments in Wrestlemania history to the printed page with “I’m Sorry. I Love You.” Reliving the highly emotional retirement match between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24 from HBK’s perspective is an inspired choice, and Ferrier injects the situation with all the gravitas it deserves, playing on Shawn’s guilt and reluctance to end the career of his idol. As strong as the writing is however, Goode’s artwork doesn’t quite do it justice, with some soft, doughy characters and a slightly flat aesthetic. It’s still an enjoyable read though, and a fitting end to this anthology.
I always enjoy digging into BOOM! Studios’ event-themed WWE anthologies, and for my money this might be their most consistent offering yet. Nothing here is less than great, and with Ferrier’s writing in the last story and Kim’s artwork in the first – not to mention a deliciously weird look at the childhood of Taker and Kane – this is definitely a fitting celebration of the Granddaddy of Them All.