‘WWE: Then Now Forever’ #1 Is Weird In All The Right Ways [Review]
Ahead of the launch of Boom Studios' officially licensed WWE comic, the publisher has released a jam-packed one-shot titled WWE: Then Now Forever, which features a story about the final days of The Shield by Dennis Hopeless and Dan Mora, and a ton of bonus content featuring the likes of The New Day, Sasha Banks and... Tugboat?!
It's a very strange comic, but for fans of wrestling it shows a love of the sport that makes it a fun, authentic read.
As one who always likes to pick apart the fiction of the things I love, I've often wondered what the characters of WWE get up to in-between shows. We're supposed to believe that these people are these people all the time, not just for three hours a week on a Monday evening; so what's it like to live as a cartoon character 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
Hopeless and Mora answer that question on the first few pages when we see The Shield having a private cookout on top of a production truck. The dialogue can be a little corny, and everyone overreacts to the smallest slight, but any wrestling fan will tell you that this is as true to what you'll see on television as you're going to get.
The main story, about the betrayal of The Shield by one of their own, is ridiculous and knows it, and the few winks at the reader are some of the highlights of the comic. Seth Rollins entering a yacht club in full Shield gear is already a comical image, but the best line in the comic comes from a pair of bystanders observing and commenting on the situation, as a complete aside.
One of the biggest problems with licensed WWE comics in the past is the issue of likenesses, with the previous attempt from Papercutz varying wildly from page-to-page. Thankfully, Dan Mora is adept at capturing the stoic Roman Reigns, the mad Dean Ambrose, and the smug Seth Rollins perfectly, and the few moments the comic steps into the ring for some action are satisfyingly dynamic and exciting.
As weird as the main story is, it is still confined by the shackles of WWE continuity, whereas the back-ups are free to go absolutely bonkers. Ross Thibodeaux and Rob Guillory tells a story about The New Day that comes straight out of Slam City, and --- in the most surprising addition --- a charming two-page story about Tugboat by Derek Fridolfs, drawn in the style of Popeye.
WWE: Then Now Forever #1 isn't all about the weirdness of wrestling, as Rob Schamberger's Sasha Banks short will attest. I'm not sure how much comics work Schamberger has done --- he's known for his beautiful paintings of wrestlers that often adorn t-shirts from WWE's store --- but here he manages to get to the heart of why we love wrestling and the impact a superstar can have, and he absolutely sticks the landing.
The one-shot also collects Daniel Bayliss' series of one-page comics from San Diego Comic Con, which do a remarkably great job of summing up wrestlers' whole deals in a small space. Bayliss is able to distill the characters with decades of history, like Dusty Rhodes, The Undertaker, and John Cena, into one page each, and honestly superhero comics could take a page out of his book.
The biggest criticism of the title is that if you're not already a WWE fan, it's unlikely to make you one, and will probably leave you with way more questions than just turning on the TV for Raw or SmackDown. However, if you love The King of Sports, this is a must-read comic on par with the very best non-licensed wrestling titles, and hopefully the ongoing series is just as weird and wonderful.
Check out a preview for WWE: Then Now Forever #1 below:
Check out the full solicitation information:
WWE: Then. Now. Forever.
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs
Artists: Dan Mora, Rob Schamberger, Rob Guillory, Daniel Bayliss, Derek Fridolfs
“Now” Main Cover A - Dean Ambrose: Dan Mora
“Then” Intermix B - Stone Cold Steve Austin: Eric Powell
“Now” Main Cover C - Roman Reigns: Dan Mora
“Then” Intermix D - The Rock: Juan Doe
“Now” Main Cover E - Seth Rollins: Dan Mora
“Then” Intermix F - Triple H: Matías Bergara
“Forever” Incentive G - Undertaker: Frazer Irving
Format: 48 pages, full color
On sale: November 9, 2016
BOOM! Studios' is proud to deliver authentic Sports Entertainment featuring WWE Superstars to comic readers!
This oversized issue contains the WWE San Diego Comic-Con 2016 one-page comics along with a wealth of new content, celebrating the versatility and diversity of WWE throughout its various eras.
Includes the 20-page story “The Breaking of the Shield” by Dennis Hopeless and Dan Mora, where Seth Rollins chose to betray his brothers Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns at the behest of Triple H and the Authority; a short story featuring The New Day by Ross Thibodeaux and Rob Guillory; a Sasha Banks story by Rob Schamberger; and a Tugboat short by Derek Fridolfs.