WWE: NXT: Takeover
Jim Campbell (Letters); Aaron Dana, Marcus D’Alfonso, Audrey Mok, David Nakayama, Lucas Werneck, (Covers); Jake Elphick, Kendall Goode, Hyeonjin Kim, Rodrigo Lorenzo (Illustrations); Doug Garbark, Wesllei Manoel (Colors); Dennis Hopeless (Writer)
April 3, 2019
NXT has been the WWE’s so-called “farm league” for only six years, but in that amount of time it’s launched a large handful of future main-show superstars and several legendary match of the year. What began as a replacement program on the SyFy channel to fill in for a failed ECW reboot with a Tough Enough-style contest soon became the flagship program on the WWE’s fledgling streaming network. NXT: Takeover covers that period of transition, from when the small mini-company began as a Dusty Rhodes-supervised territory to its current state as the home for The Velveteen Dream.
The company’s history is broken down into three sections by one writer, one letterer, and several illustrators and colorists. The first is my favorite: “The Blueprint” (Campbell/Elphick/Garbark/Hopeless). The story follows a perfectly-drawn Dusty Rhodes through a day at Full Sail—the company’s arena and training headquarters in Florida—as he acts as commissioner for the first time. In this case, it means teaching the Usos how to let their charisma shine, intervening in a fistfight between Seth Rollins and Jinder Mahal, musing about the futures of Xavier Woods and Big E and presaging the formation of The New Day, spying on Bray Wyatt and expressing pride in Paige and Seth, and keeping folks’ spirits up after their first show.
This book has the best portrayal of Bray Wyatt I’ve ever seen and has a solid Dusty POV throughout the whole issue, making him as extremely likable and funny as he was onscreen. All of the other featured superstars receive their entertaining due—even the long-forgotten by now Jinder Mahal—and there’s even a bit part for a funny camerawoman. Elphick’s art is cartoony and engaging, catching the spirit of the sport without mocking it.
The second story, “Proving Ground” (Campbell/Goode/Hopeless), is about Samoa Joe’s transition from the independent circuit into the NXT ecosystem. His feud with Finn Balor—which transforms into a brief tag team partnership—is portrayed in an ever-so-gleeful, slightly homeoerotic way. Prime example: “No better motivator than wanting what you can’t have,” says Balor as he enters the showers and Joe glares on in frustration. Set almost directly after Dusty’s death, we get a much, much better feel for Joe in this comic than we do on television. His characterisation here is fascinating, and Goode’s art remains reliable.
“Into the Fire” (Campbell/Kim/Hopeless/Manoel) is my second-favorite story in the graphic novel for the storyline and writing alone, which again gives dimension to Paige’s personality. It follows then-Smackdown GM Paige as she returns to her old stomping ground at NXT to scout potential female draftees for her brand—Asuka and Amber Moon. As she tries to charm each woman into joining her company, she also takes a trip to the past and through her own career, but ends up with two totally different signees by the end of the night. Kim’s manga-influenced art is charming and bright.
And finally the fourth story, “Redemption” (Campbell/Hopeless/Lorenzo/Manoel) takes an incredibly phantasmagorical trip through Alestair Black’s origin, his discovery by William Regal, and his feuds with Velveteen Dream and Adrade Almas. Giving us something of a dark fantasy retelling of Black’s motivation takes everything in a fresh new direction for his character, although it entertains in its own way. Its version of events was my least favorite in the volume, perhaps because, unlike Samoa Joe’s tale, it didn’t breathe new life into the character. There is some great linework by Lorenzo, though, and Manoel’s coloring was lovely.
BOOM’s wrestling comics continue to be rock solid in an exemplary and inventive way. Everything about NXT: Takeover provides fresh new fun perspectives on the company, and readers will find themselves all wrapped up in the book’s bear hug.