Dennis Hopeless, Tini Howard (writers), Serg Acuña, Hyeonjin Kim (artists), Douglass Garbark (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterist), Dan Mora (color artist)
March 21, 2018
In my review of WWE #14, I called the issue “underwhelming.” I was disappointed in the issue, feeling like it was “just coasting and hoping nobody will notice.” But I can safely say this: last month’s issue was high art compared to what we’re getting this time around.
I almost don’t want to write this review. Because as much as I like to claim I am a heartless sarcasm dispenser, I really don’t want to trash an issue of the WWE comic from BOOM Studios. I specifically don’t want to trash one from an arc concentrating on the WWE’s “Women’s Revolution,” a term they’ve used for their attempt to overhaul the treatment of their women’s wrestlers. So I take no pleasure in saying: this issue sucks.
The main story in this issue is a total mess in every imaginable way. From the writing to the art to the very concept, it is poorly planned and utterly mismanaged. If this is the way BOOM and WWE have decided to treat the Women’s Revolution, I can only assume it is somewhere between a joke and an afterthought for both.
The story continues from #14 following Bayley, who’s watching her fellow Horsewomen Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Sasha Banks after their call-up to the main roster from the “developmental territory” of NXT. Once again much of the story is driven by internal dialog, in this case Bayley thinking about how it’s hard for her to hear that she’s supposedly “not good enough” for the main roster, but using that as motivation to keep going. It starts with a training montage and blends into Bayley dominating match after match in NXT.
This montage covers approximately a month or so of training and wrestling. The problem is it feels much, much longer, as if it were drawn out to include the internal monologue that has become the tiresome trademark of the series. This isn’t helped by the fact that the matches Bayley is shown in are matches that actually happened, but much later on, after she’d become NXT Women’s Champion. Based on those five frames you would think that at least a year has passed. In actuality, it’s been less than a month.
Then, after drawing out this montage for pages, the comic rushes through the events leading to Bayley facing her friend/rival Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship. This was one of the best and most intense rivalries of the time, leading up to a now-legendary match between the two that pushed the boundaries of what women in the WWE at large were allowed to be capable of. Reach this match and oh, wait, back up, you didn’t realize Sasha Banks was still NXT Women’s Champion despite debuting on WWE Raw a month prior? That’s because it is literally never brought up before this. The impression is we’re supposed to be familiar enough with the happenings in NXT (in real life) to know that Sasha is still holding a title (in the comic)— but not familiar enough to know that Bayley couldn’t have wrestled Nia Jax on NXT TV because Nia Jax hadn’t even officially debuted yet. Hilariously, the only solid bit of fact-checking is that Alexa Bliss is drawn in her old blue pixie gear rather than her post-heel turn style.
The greater problem here isn’t even the factual errors. The problem is that it makes me wonder how much Dennis Hopeless actually cares about what he’s writing about. I don’t even get the feeling he checked Wikipedia articles for reference’s sake. And while it would be easy to assume that is because the current arc is based around women, I don’t even think that’s the problem. I think he did very well when he was writing things like Dean Ambrose and Sasha Banks fleeing from the Wyatt family, but I don’t think he’s as skilled when it comes to more grounded character pieces.
Artistically the main story doesn’t do much to save it. Normally I don’t have a problem with Acuna’s art, other than a few minor gripes here and there. But this issue feels, for lack of a better word, rushed. There’s a panel where the drawing of Sasha Banks is so misshapen she looks like some kind of hunched over goblin. A scene where Bayley meets the other women for lunch has Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch in literally the exact same pose, with the exact same body type and clothing coloured differently. And someone please explain to me why these women are all wearing jackets when it is a sunny day in June in Orlando, FL? Because the only explanation I’ve got is someone didn’t want to spend the time drawing the details of their arms.
“Rushed” is probably the best way to describe this whole issue. As if it were done at the last moment to meet a deadline or the creative direction was changed at the last second or something of that sort. And again, while I don’t think it is due to the story being about women, I do think that it hurts even more in this situation. The point of the story is meant to be that women in WWE have been majorly dismissed and abandoned and then the Women’s Revolution changed all that. But the comic feeling as if it were an afterthought is almost metatextual commentary on that: we’re going to pretend we care about showcasing our women, but we’re going to do it in the laziest way possible. We’ll still expect you to applaud us for being such visionaries.
The back-up story is almost the polar opposite of the main feature. At only three pages it succeeds in doing far more than the main story with many of the same elements. While we’re grounded in Asuka’s thoughts here, the short meditation on language barriers is incredibly effective. Tini Howard keeps her text minimal and powerful. It of course helps that the words are placed against Hyeonjin Kim’s art which continues to be the highlight of the current issues. While I could praise so much of it—including the feeling of action, the contortion of faces, the muscles—the thing that strikes me the most is Kim’s rendering of Asuka. He captures her so perfectly as the technicolor murder machine she is.
But to say I’m disappointed in this issue at large is an understatement. This arc had such potential and while I tried not to get my hopes up too high, this was blow to any I had. I’m ashamed of this issue and honestly, BOOM and the WWE should be, too.