Roundtable Review: ‘WWE Heroes’ #2
ComicsAlliance writers Laura Hudson, Chris Sims, Caleb Goellner, Jason Michelitch, and David Uzumeri sit down for a roundtable discussion about "WWE Heroes" #2. WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Chris: I guess it falls to me to do the recap this time?
Laura: You are the WWE expert.
Chris: You say that with hella judgment in your heart, Laura. Okay, so: In "WWE Heroes," there are two eternally warring mystical brothers called the Firstborn and the Shadow King, who battle each other in conflicts throughout history. The first issues showed them in the Civil War and World War II, and now their conflict has come to the WWE, because apparently there aren't enough actual wars going on in the world right now. The Shadow King has a bunch of cultist worshippers, and they have used what I eventually realized were supposed to be guns to plan a terrorist attack on WrestleMania. This is seriously one of the worst comic books I have ever read. And brother (and sister), I have read an awful lot of terrible comics.
David: REALLY? As someone with no knowledge of the WWE, honestly, this is nowhere near as bad as some of the jaw-droppingly terrible comics I've suffered through.
Chris: I don't know, guys, I think it might be.
Jason: Who needs a recap? This has the best recap page I have ever seen. It's just contorted faces and naked men slapping each other.
David: "Contorted faces and naked men slapping each other" describes a hell of a lot of comics I really like, though, let's be fair.
Jason: No, I meant it as a compliment.
Jason: I feel like I read this comic about 50 times between 1991 and 1997.
David: Like, yeah, it's definitely a for-the-paycheck job, but it's King Mob trapping a stadium of wrestling fans in with explosives, including a kid who just wants to piss, so that he can force his ancient enemy from the beginning of time (who is Triple H) to face him?
Jason: Let me just kick off my biggest problem with the comic: why is it taking place in the WWE? By which I mean, on television, the people in the WWE are playing characters in some sort of fictional world. Why is this comic not set in that fictional world?
Chris: You mean "why does a book that's already about conflict between broad caricatures feel the need to add a separate layer and bat-sh-t crazy mysticism to tell a story?"
David: It's true, the Firstborn could have just as easily been a rock star, or a basketball player, or a cellist.
Chris: Or he could've been AN ACTUAL SOLDIER. Also, the book equates the WWE with the guys who fought during World War II.
Laura: Seriously? Cracking heads with people like the Undertaker = fighting Nazis?
Chris: The Firstborn's line of thought is "Well, I fought in the Civil War and then helped battle the Nazis... I guess the next logical step is the Intercontinental Title." Like I said, the Firstborn and the Shadow King (I cannot believe those names every time I type them) use other conflicts as the backdrop for their eternal mystical war.
David: I swear to God, the resemblance between the Shadow King and King Mob is ridiculous. Perhaps it IS Grant Morrison, arriving in the stadium to play a fourth-wall-breaking game with wrestling.
Chris: That's actually Josiah, the Shadow King's prophet. Man, am I the only one actually reading this thing?
David: Honestly, I don't remember anything in there stating that. I mean in the recap, it goes "to draw him out, the Shadow King is about to attack... Wrestlemania!", with Josiah right there. I mean, I figured he was the modern incarnation.
Laura: Reading this comic requires first understanding a cast of characters and an entire world I know nothing about, and then understanding that they are really a secondary set of characters that they actually are in this other world that I know nothing about. Although I guess that kinda sounds like a Grant Morrison comic too.
Chris: I would literally stab any of you if it meant I got an actual Grant Morrison WWE comic.
Laura: If I'm dead I can't pay you, Chris.
Chris: Okay, can we start on Page One, Panel 1? Because I hate to be That Guy, but right from the start this is wrong. JR never sits on the left. He sits on the RIGHT. Jerry "The King" Lawler sits on the left.
Laura: What's the point of the Undertaker/Triple H fight in the beginning? They totally blow it out of proportion saying this is the CRAZIEST and MOST INTENSE they've ever seen Triple H, and it goes on for 3 pages but nothing happens. I have no idea why that exists in the book.
Jason: And I think that's a fundamental conceptual flaw. There shouldn't be this other, more important fight going on. The WWE fights should be the earth shatteringly important fights.
David: Well, I mean, I kind of figured that Keith Champagne was trying to go for comic-bookifying the WWE narrative. Why bother just doing a WWE comic that's WWE storylines? Why not just do that as a TV show? So he tried to do stuff you could only do in comics.
Chris: But see, you can do pro wrestling stuff in comics and have it be fun. Wonder Woman totally dropped a German Suplex on a Gorilla one time. It was off the chain. I guess what I'm saying here is that the art in this book is really, really awful.
Jason: You should make the WWE fights the central conflicts of the book, as if they are real... I mean, this is a three-page drawing of a FAKE FIGHT. Because in this comic, WWE is still an entertainment business. Vince McMahon shows up, for god's sake.
Chris: It's not just that it's a three-page drawing of a fake fight, it's that it's a three-page drawing of a fake fight that then goes on to acknowledge that it's fake, and then happens AGAIN except this time it's real, except why would you make two guys in the WWE fight each other when pretending to fight each other without actually hurting each other is the one thing they're really good at?
Chris: Here's the thing: If you have them fight in character, the entire book has to be in character. If you have them out of character, then you can never show them wrestling in actual matches, because then you're acknowledging that what you're showing the audience doesn't matter. It's like having three pages of Clark Kent typing up a City Council meeting.
Laura: Basically, the comic is saying, who cares about actual WWE wrestling?
Jason: That is by far my favorite drawn fake fight image. Drawing a man unconvincingly laying knocked out.
Chris: I have to say, though, as much as I criticize Andy Smith's art, which is pretty horrible, I love that there's a sign on Page 3 that just says "HEY!!!! TRIPLE H!!" That's the sign I'm taking next time Raw comes to town.
Jason: There's also one that says "WHERE'S MY MONEY VINCE !?" Did Andy Smith not get paid on time?
Chris: But yes, that's the problem: On TV, the storylines can be fake and everybody's fine with it because what carries them are the matches themselves, with the physical performance and the charisma of the characters. Which you don't have in a comic. You only have the story.
David: That's a good point -- with a better artist, three pages of a thin excuse for two dudes to wrestle would rule. Frank Quitely, for instance.
Chris: Again: Who do I need to stab for Morrison/Quitely WWE Comics? "ALL-STAR THE ROCK."
Chris: Here's what's crazy about this issue: We have not even come close to the bad part yet.
David: I really think a lot of the failure in this book comes down to Andy Smith totally fumbling the ball that Champagne's throwing at him. Because I mean, I READ three issues of "Green Lantern Corps" by Keith Champagne that were pretty damned fun.
Laura: I mean, maybe David. But the story offers absolutely no context for the fight and I have no idea who's mad or why or what it means, but then probably it is not really for people like me who don't understand the backstory.
Chris: I'm going to go ahead and guess that the only thing keeping you from being the exact opposite of the target audience for this book is that you read comics, Laura.
Laura: Hey, I'm not against reading a fun comic about people having stupid fights and dramas and punching each other. I'm pretty sure I do that all the time. I'd just like to know who they are and why they're fighting.
Caleb: All anybody needs to know is that if you buy a Bowflex like the ad in this comic says, you will be able to wrestle. Professionally even. For the WWE even. To fight the forces of darkness even. Bowflex!
Jason: I don't know where this is from, but it made the rounds at my office yesterday, and is permanently associated in my mind now with Bowflex.
Caleb: That lady wears heels when she Bowflexes. And puts her hand down her panties. That's intense.
David: Well, I mean, it does say adparody.com, but that's pretty much why people buy a Bowflex.
Chris: It's called working the calves, Caleb.
Jason: It's called Real Results.
Laura: Meanwhile, back in the book, the overly-pierced priest dude shows up with all his stooges and 90s guns, invokes an inappropriate chess metaphor, and kills a security guard.
Chris: WWE has the worst security guards in the world. "What are you creepy looking guys doing with all those WEAPONS?" No wonder they can't stop the managers from interfering with the matches.
Jason: Also, what the f--k does that mean?
Laura: Josiah says a lot of things that come from an ominous villain phrase generator.
David: I love how this dude only speaks in the most bullshit tenth-grade platitudes. For some reason, I took it as a conscious decision, to just have this guy speak like a terrible high school emo writing dialogue for the villain in his D&D campaign.
Laura: Also I just flipped back to the beginning and saw one of the early Josiah quotes:
Laura: That's not how shadows work, but ok.
Caleb: Anyone notice the villain has a lot of piercings? Is that a commentary on things that aren't allowed in the ring? He's also bald
Chris: I literally think that's so you can tell him apart from the wrestlers.
Laura: I love the transition between the little kid saying he's going to explode if he doesn't pee and all the bombs.
Chris: Oh my God, Laura. I didn't even notice that. I don't know if that's the worst writing ever or the best.
Jason: Wait, before the backstage scene, there's the painfully accurate shots of home viewers. A couple dudes in Hooters, and then a man in an apartment with literal holes in the walls eating a TV dinner off his hand. The man with holes in his walls and no TV tray can, however, afford a plasma screen.
Caleb: Then backstage, the manly wrestlers are comforting the women folk. Wow, there's some straight product placement for the Zombie Survival Guide. I can back that. Rey Mysterio promotes literacy,
Chris: Yeah, it was awfully nice of Max Brooks to make a special edition of the "Zombie Survival Guide" for Rey Mysterio that had the cover on the back and the spine upside down so we could tell what he was reading. Good work, Andy Smith.
Caleb: Dude, it's a manga. Give the guy a break. He only buys tankobon.
Chris: Does reading manga give Rey Mysterio a stroke? Jesus Christ, look at him.
Laura: The expressions of confusion and fear in this book are so horribly distorted. I actually is like watching at a long parade of zombies.
Chris: Forget the roundtable. Let's just do "The Faces of WWE Heroes."
David: Also, I wouldn't blame the book on Andy Smith -- it's totally feasible that the colorist or letterer added that in, and Smith didn't know about the book's product placement when he drew the page.
Chris: That's a fair point. How about this: "Way to only draw a quarter of one of Rey Mysterio's tattoos, instead of the five or six that you should be able to see in that scene. Good work, Andy Smith."
Caleb: Oh man, a wrestler is about to get raped by a bunch of skinny dudes who should not be able to overpower him. Is this a DC book now?
Laura: Wait, how come everyone has a 90s gun except for Josiah, and he suddenly has an axe? Man, and like three panels later he throws the axe on the ground. They seriously just gave him an axe for four panels so he could hit Vince McMahon with the butt of it.
David: I wish this were the end to that story.
Laura: And then he literally throws it away. Why?
Jason: It had served its purpose, Laura.
Chris: This is like reading someone's dream journal. "And then he hit Vince with an axe--did I mention he had an axe?"
Jason: And I like that Vince McMahon is the recipient of the cliched "we can't kill the hero even though he's unconscious and I have an axe -- he might be USEFUL. Tie him up instead" scene.
David: I LOVE this ridiculous dialogue.
Laura: "Only a fool asks for unpleasant surprises." Dude is a f--king fortune cookie
Chris: Laura. HeroesCon. We need to have a live reading. Of this comic.
Chris: Okay, finally, the scene with Chris Jericho, and this -- THIS! -- is where it gets truly awful.
David: Chris Jericho dies OFF PANEL!
Chris: Okay, first of all, that NOBODY would help Chris Jericho. Really? C'mon, Big Show! You guys were tag team champions! Second, that Chris Jericho is tripped and then stunned because apparently he doesn't know how to fall on his face IN A WRESTLING RING.
Laura: Really, it seems like Chris Jericho died because he got fed up with the terrible dialogue and just couldn't take it any more.
Chris: Not every man can remain calm in the face of a storm.
Laura: Also no one seems that upset after he dies.
Chris: Batista looks like he just remembered that he left the oven on. You know what he doesn't look like? Dave Batista. I've been watching WWE for 20 years. I could not tell you who more than five people in this scene are supposed to be.
Laura: See, I love how killing Chris Jericho didn't get anyone up in arms, but this bad metaphor about lions is crossing the line. Enough is ENOUGH.
Chris: Basically, the moral of this comic is "Chris Jericho? Man F--k THAT Guy."
David: Maybe back in the day, the Firstborn was like, King of the Lions!
Laura: Also, Triple H knocks out Undertaker because Josiah tells him to, dude is bleeding all over the ground, then he turns around and screams, "I WON'T PLAY YOUR SICK GAME!" RIght after he totally played the game. Like, two pages earlier he was all about it.
Chris: Again, why would this guy's master plan be "I'm going to make them.... FIGHT EACH OTHER!" Dude, did you not INTERRUPT THEM DURING A MATCH? They were ALREADY FIGHTING EACH OTHER.
Laura: The exact same guys!
Chris: I also like that the Undertaker manages to work his catchphrase into their life-and-death struggle.
David: Maybe Triple H is both the Firstborn AND the Shadow King, hence the split face. And this is actually a metacommentary on the impermanence of the heel/face dichotomy, and how in the WWE wrestlers must wear the masks with equal time to become successful performers.
Chris: I think you're suggesting a level of storytelling competence in "WWE Heroes" that we have no evidence of being present, David.
Laura: Plus the priest totally cops a feel on the last page, nice.
Chris: None of these women are consistent from scene to scene. The girl in the backstage scene isn't out in the ring. At least, not in the same outfit. Neither of the girls who IS out in the ring is the one who yells at Josiah at the end.
Laura: Are these distinct ladies from the WWE?
Chris: I have no idea who they're supposed to be. I'm also having a lot of trouble believing anyone who bought this comic wanted to see Chris Jericho murdered with a "spluch" and Triple H get... what the hell was that, magicked to death?
Laura: Also, is there any context at all for the zombie splash page? Can we talk about why he's suddenly 200 feet tall and everyone is eating each other?
Jason: That's the Shadow King.
David: Is it? I thought that was HHH gone mad. Like, as the Firstborn, HE was actually the villain. I thought that was the twist, and it was like a classic heel/face switch.
Jason: It's the same guy on the recap page. Who is referred to as "The Shadow King."
David: Ah. Yes. No, you're right, HHH Is having a prophetic vision of his enemy.... It's the apocalyptic future that will occur if the Shadow King rules! It's Triple H glimpsing his Arthurian destiny as the savior!
Chris: It's the main event of this year's Backlash!