By Pablo Arriaga
The main feature in this comic invites the reader to relive the final days of the SHIELD, coming off their Payback 2014 win and taking place on the Monday Night Raw the following night, as the comic flashbacks to the days leading up to the pay-per view all the way to the night Seth Rollins would turn on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to become the whiny undisputed future on the WWE, and now we’re cheering for him. Wrestling is weird!
The story fills in the gaps on what happened “backstage” with the SHIELD and how Seth ended up breaking a deal with The Game, aka Triple H, aka The King of Kings, aka The Cerebral Assassin, aka any cool nickname given by a 14 year old who just discovered Metallica and Pantera. If I’m spoiling anything so far, I’m sorry but this is a storyline that is 2 years old. Seth Rollins has been a bad guy an almost good guy, an injured guy, and now a full-on good guy. Roman Reigns has become divisive among the fans (to say the least) and has moved up and down the middle and upper card ever since. Dean Ambrose has created his own signature match and gone on to become one of the main players in Smackdown Live.
I want to express how old this plot is because that’s exactly how it feels, particularly on a story that is supposed to run parallel to the regular content in the WWE. Having Bray Wyatt deal with the SHIELD feels dated is because it is, and incredibly so (literal, actual dates on the pages). WWE has gone through so many changes since then; and although I understand the strategic push for relevant Superstars like Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns, the conclusion to their feud is done with all three having held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at least once, and so much has happened ever since: a full brand split, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Champion of The Universe Kevin Owens,
I am not particularly invested in the dealings they might have had during that time. Nor will I care for what inevitably happens later (we all remember Royal Rumble 2015). When there is so much great content happening right now. It’s a poor choice to start a new comic that I is supposed to ultimately attract new viewers with something that happened, given the duration of stories and radical changes in wrestling, ages ago.
The art in this issue is fun and dynamic. One of the best defined characters in the main story is Dean Ambrose, given his “Lunatic Fringe” persona, he was bound to be a stand out one and the facial expressions given by Dan Mora and Daniel Bayliss allow for his dialogue to flourish, and they aid to the characterization of each one of the member, like Roman acting more like their collective big brother to Rollins and Ambrose’s huge egos constantly clashing. Like the wrestlers themselves, Bayliss and Mora truly shine when everyone is in the ring, their more dynamic style allows for a lot of action to be had and their enjoyment of them punching each other in the face translates into the page. I truly wish there was more of it in this issue and hope for it in future ones, I was teased by Reigns’ power bomb lacking the impact and would have loved to seen him spear one of the Wyatts right in the middle of the ring.
There’s a backup story featuring the (ahem) W...W…E World... Tag... Team... CHAAAMPIOOOONSSS! Ahem… so the New Day threatened by Alundra Blayze, Bray Wyatt, and Kane which makes Xavier Woods realize there is a disturbance in the force, and they use a time machine to find the anomalies on the now Booty-fied timeline. Rob Guillory has gone away with the suspension of disbelief and involved himself in the world of “kayfabe.” By doing so, he gets exactly what The New Day are about and shows it with their dancing and praising around the small adventures. I also love his depiction of Kane and Blayze still carrying the trash can she threw the Women’s Championship into. The backup story is followed by a two-page comic about Tugboat with a style that reminisces Disney shorts and old Popeyes cartoons. After it’s followed by a string of short stories narrated by great promos cut by now legendary Superstars. It begins with a Sasha Banks two-pager that shows her (and our) admiration for the great, late Eddie Guerrero, and other greats like Steve Austin, Dusty Rhodes, and The Rock.
WWE Then. Now. Forever. #1 is a decent beginning to the huge wrestling conglomerate that is the WWE but mainly for its backup stories. The following issues will need to kick it up a notch and seriously update their main story in order to compete with the other comic book titles coming out these days and not to become another failed McMahon attempt at branching out.
WWE Then. Now. Forever #1
Writers: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs
Artists: Dan Mora, Daniel Bayliss, Rob Guillory, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs
Publisher: BOOM! Studio