Back when it was first solicited, I made the bold assertion that it was going to be terrible, but now that I've actually sat down and read through the first issue of Titan's "WWE Heroes" after it hit shelves at my local shop last week, it looks like I might've spoken too soon. As much as I hate to admit my mistakes, I have to confess that "WWE Heroes" #1 is not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

It's worse.To start with, there's the plot, which... well, let's just say that I would've preferred to have a line-by-line adaptation of that WWE angle where the Big Boss Man fed Al Snow chili made from Snow's dog, and then they wrestled in the infamously awful Kennel From Hell match. As near as I can figure, the comic centers around two mythical eternal foes, the Firstborn and the Shadow King, who are reincarnated over and over to fight each other throughout history.

I'm going to assume that writer Keith Champagne introduced these characters for one of three reasons:

A) There just weren't enough good guys and bad guys to draw from in the WWE already

B) He realized that there had to introduce the concept of over-the-top battles between good and evil to pro wrestling fans, who had absolutely no familiarity with that structure, or

C) He realized that the last thing anyone buying a comic called "WWE Heroes" would want is to actually get a story about the WWE wrestlers themselves, instead preferring to see what would've happened if Hulkamania ran wild on the Civil War.

Okay, okay: Sarcasm aside, I would totally buy a comic where wrestlers just cold traveled through time cutting promos on history, if only to get the lost version of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural speech, where he claims he's gonna bind up the nation's wounds with the 24-inch pythons, brother.

Instead, Champagne goes with drawing comparisons between pro wrestling events and historical battles, comparing stuff like Royal Rumble to the European conquest of South America. Seriously, that's in there. Except that apparently South America was populated solely by Jaguar Men and Mola Ram from "Temple of Doom."

It's stupid and it's done pretty sloppily, but it's not egregious until he tries to draw the parallel between WrestleMania and World War II, which is the point where even someone with fond memories of Paul Bearer and the mystical urn that gave the Undertaker his supernatural power lets out an "oh come on."

And matters are only complicated by artist Andy Smith. I've seen his work in other places, and he's certainly capable of far better than the art he's doing here, which is just atrocious. For starters, there's the Shadow King himself, who--aside from the scarred half of his face, is drawn to look an awful lot like WWE wrestler Triple-H. Specifically, he's drawn to look like the version of Triple-H in his Conan-esque entrance gear from WrestleMania 22. Which is the version that's on the cover of the comic book.

The problem? Again, as near as I can tell, he isn't meant to be Triple-H at all. He's just some other dude with long hair in Conan the Barbarian cosplay.

And that's not the only example of characters looking similar to one another, either, and nowhere near the worst. No, that comes later, in a scene with Randy Orton and Batista. For those of you unfamiliar, here's what these two look like:

Orton's on the left, Batista on the right. Now, to be fair, there are some similarities, especially on the broad strokes: They've both got light skin and dark hair and -- as they're both pro wrestlers -- they're both pretty muscular. On the other hand, Batista's about ten years older than Orton and has a goatee, and also they both have giant, distinctive tattoos.

Here's how they appear in the comic:

If only there was some way to tell those two wrestlers apart other than the fact that one of them is wearing elbow pads! If only they had, for instance, giant, distinctive tattoos. And again, these aren't background players; they're the focus of the scene.

I could rattle off other panels that are equally terrible -- I'm pretty fond of the one where Smith draws Triple-H's signature ring entrance move of spitting water everywhere by drawing a bunch of water hovering somewhere to to the right of his mouth -- but there's one that really stuck out to me, and it follows along the same lines of not drawing any of the wrestlers' tattoos. Check out the ring apron at the comic's version of WrestleMania 24:

Other than cropping, I didn't alter that image at all: The WrestleMania logo is that pixelated in the comic itself, which gives me the sense that someone Photoshopped it in there after the rest of the panel had been drawn. And given how bad it looks, I assume they just typed "WrestleMania Logo" into Google image search and went with the best result they could find there, which is just hilarious. You'd think the WWE would have high-res versions of that stuff pretty handy.

And then there's the absolutely mystifying last panel. This is meant to be the hook that pulls readers back in for the second issue, and yet I absolutely cannot figure out what is supposed to be happening here. Just so you aren't missing the context, here's the setup: The Shadow King's cultists go to WrestleMania in order to find out which wrestler is the reincarnated Firstborn. They get their tickets ready, and then... this:

I have no idea what is going on there. Is it sand? Did they put some sand in a box of WWE Equipment to accomplish some sinister purpose? I'm not even kidding here, I just don't know what that's supposed to be. Is it just me? Am I actually just too stupid to understand a plot point in "WWE Heroes?" Although really, even if I am, I still think I can go ahead and count that as a flaw of the work itself.

Because here's the thing: I like comics, and I actually like pro wrestling a lot. I'm a lifelong fan, and I'd actually like to read a comic about the WWE. I mean, I read Big Apple Takedown, the novel that recast a crew of wrestlers as undercover spies that was gloriously stupid, and whose only flaw was its lack of violence. But "WWE Heroes" is just not good on any level, and fails to even exce
ed the abysmally low standards set by the truly awful wrestling comics of the past.

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