WWE Forever #1
Michael Kingston, Lan Pitts, Derek Fridolfs, Arune Singh, Brent Schoonover (Writing); Brent Schoonover, Derek Fridolfs, Michel Mulipola, Carlos Magno, Kendall Goode (Art); Jim Campbell (Letters); Matias Laborde, Doug Garbark, Fred C. Stresing, Kendall Goode, (Colors); Rahzzah, Kendall Goode, Marco D’Alfonso (covers)
January 30, 2019
Having launched a successful main line and put out issues covering multiple important past moments in the lives of its colorful legends, WWE Forever #1 flashes back to the wild, colorful ’80s and the somewhat cartoonish ’90s, giving us portraits of the past that are sometimes hilarious and sometimes tenderly engaging.
The volume has five different stories. In the sweet though occasionally awkwardly drawn (seriously, Roddy Piper looks like a stiff action figure on page six) “A Show of Hart,” Jimmy Hart tries to charm Bret Hart into allowing him to manage the new star. Little does he know he’s giving Bret a clairvoyant preview of his rise to the top of the mountain — a climb he will not accompany the Hitman upon. Years later, as Bret prepares for his first world championship title match, Hart appears again to point out he was right all along and settle old scores. This one packs just the right emotional punch and plumbs a not-often re explored nook in the Hitman’s storied history, and even with the awkward art captures the era perfectly.
“The King of Bling” takes the reader on an entirely new journey – a meeting between the money-obsessed Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase, who wants his jeweler to make himself something even greater than the Million Dollar Belt. The jeweler is unable to please him, but effortlessly thrills one of Ted’s colleagues – Razor Ramon. The two men promptly clash. This story sports the worst art in the entire volume (seriously — every single drawing in the story looks absolutely nothing like Scott Hall at all), but captures something of the attitudes of both men. The encounter between them, however, ends up feeling like one giant tease for a bigger, better story we never get to read.
The Junkyard Dog’s struggle to overcome King Harley Race’s machinations (and those of Bobby Heenan) to become the WWE’s next king play out in the wonderfully cartoony “The Royal Treatment.” While the art is fun to look at, the story’s no more than a match vignette, and we don’t get any depth on how each guy feels about it. But it’s nice as a cute, quick palette cleanser.
The next story is so wholly unexpected that I had to laugh. A case of mistaken identity results in Irwin R. Shyster being kidnapped by a group of thugs who want him to help smooth over some irregularities with their taxes caused by them making their money by knocking over various banks. But Irwin believes in one thing: the American tax code!! I rolled, readers, I just rolled laughing in my seat. This is a wonderful concept, and Kendall Goode’s art makes Irwin look like a big, beefy, angry Superman stuck in the suburbs with the dullest job in the world. The writing is amazing. If you know anything about Ric Flair and his tax troubles, you’ll die laughing as Shyster scoffs at the idea of “Stylin’ and Profilin’” being tax deductible. And then the writing goes ahead and GIVES IRWIN AND HIS LOADED BRIEFCASE A TOUCHING BACKSTORY. “Internal Audit” does what all of these stories ought to do – take a character, obscure and ignored, from the annals of the company and turn them into something tragic and grand.
But do you know what the volume’s best story is, writing-wise? A little tale that moves Bobby Heenan’s kidnapping of Matilda (which took place in 1986, when Heenan was managing the Islanders and Matilda not only represented Davey Boy Smith but the Dynamite Kid and the tag team The British Bulldogs) to the 1990s, when Smith was a solo star. After the kidnapping, Bobby spends twenty four hours babysitting the destructive, Davy-missing bulldog, and their love-hate (okay, mostly hate) relationship is utterly hilarious. Brent Schoonover manages to capture Heenan’s blustery, slimy, cheating charm effortlessly, and the antics are ridiculously funny and right on the money for The Brain. “The Brain vs The Bulldog” shines.
With three great tales, one okay tale and one dud, WWE Forever is a worthwhile buy that even Irwin R. Shyster would agree is worth the cash.