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WWE: Then. Now. Forever #1

Written by Dennis Hopeless with Ross Thibodeaux and Rob Schamberger
Art by Dan Mora with Rob Guillory and Tob Schamberger
Published by Boom! Studios

Sports and comics make for a tough intersection. For one, most of us reading would have been “indoor kids” growing up. Also, the movement in panels works well with punching and flying but not so much with shooting a basket.
Wrestling, though? Wrestling crosses into comics very well. There’s ample punching and flying, and the costumes and storylines engage viewers like when Spider-Man and Venom get to the last issue of their grudge match.

This one-shot sets up Dennis Hopeless’s WWE series, due next year, by detailing the deeper character moments that went into the formation of tough guy team, The Shield, and the stunning betrayal that ended them. I don’t know the story from watching the event, so I was surprised, but WWE fans will enjoy the buildup even with the known ending. I’m not sure where this is headed as an ongoing series, but Hopeless proves he can write these men as more than grouchy meatheads, and I have faith he can pull a satisfying drama from this tragedy. Dan Mora, whose art balanced the muscularity and grace of Klaus last winter, has brought the beauty out of this sport. His characters seethe with pent-up aggression and release with a kinetic celebration that makes sound effects unnecessary.

The backups are a bit of a let-down, mostly jokes about wrestling that I think I’m just not in the loop for and a beautiful but trite sequence about how wrestlers inspire kids to be who they want to be, as long as that’s “a wrestler.” But the main story is good enough for me to recommend this one-shot and to happily anticipate the ongoing series.

– MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics