Comic Book Review: WWE Summerslam 2017 Special
Summerslam is just 11 days and it’s become an event on par with Wrestlemania. The history of Summerslam is just as special as that of Wrestlemania and this year’s first ever “Summerslam Special” has fun diving into that history. This is a fun anthology that covers every facet of what the WWE is and comprises of a lot of fun styles.
“I Wined and Dined With Kings and Queen” by Box Brown, Daniel Bayliss and Jim Campbell
The first story in this issue is a short centered around the Dusty Rhodes/Macho Man Randy Savage feud in 1990. The story is told from the perspective of a group of friends who have taken different sides in this. One in particular was a huge Dusty Rhodes fan and switched over the Macho Man side and for a time, was one of his ring boys. Brown’s writing focuses a lot on how different these gimmicks are and how Dusty really resonated with the average man, the working class. We get lots of fantastic characterization and for me, a life long Macho Man fan, I was fully taken in by the dialogue. This story is made better because it does inject the fans in a really meaningful way which isn’t something the series has done as of yet. Daniel Bayliss provides wonderful art and colors that really captures each of these characters and their personalities very well. Wrestling gimmicks are so reliant on the visuals and Bayliss does great work at capturing the gaudy look of Macho Man and the more down to Earth look of Dusty Rhodes. Even in the coloring he does subtle things to address those differences. His time period detailing is great as everyone, even the huge audience is dressed like it’s the early 90’s. However it’s Bayliss’ wrestling that really brings this all together. He does great work with mannerisms and actual moves and it makes the story come together perfectly.
“In the Mandible of Madness” by Ryan Ferrier, Clay McCormack, Dee Cunniffe and Jim Campbell
Of the five stories in this issue, I think this is my favorite one of the bunch because it’s one of my earliest wrestling memories. The Undertaker and Mankind on their own are two of the darkest and most interesting characters the WWE had in the 1990’s. They were unlike anything else and even now we have Bray Wyatt who directly follows in their footsteps. This story covers is told mostly through the point of view of Mankind in his boiler room sanctuary as he reflects on the fights the two of them have had. Ferrier takes us into the mind of this guy as he tries to figure out how he can beat The Undertaker and wonders why he’s hated when he and Taker are not all that different. This is another big moment in the history of Summerslam as Ferrier takes us through everything that leads Paul Bearer to turn on The Undertaker and he’s able to make it just as heart breaking and dark as it actually was. At this point he swerves into The Undertaker’s point of view and it’s this that makes the entire story feel fresh. The tough thing about doing these stories is that you have to come at it from a new angle and that’s what happens here. By diving deeper into the psyches of these characters, we get to see the feuds from a new perspective and I enjoy that so much. These two characters in particular are not ones that exist as either pure babyfaces or heels and I think that’s something Ferrier understands very well.
The art for this story is fantastic as McCormack lets himself go to the darker place these characters call for. The designs of Undertaker, Mankind and Bearer are fantastic and once again I’m taken back to some of my earliest wrestling memories. I was a little scared of Mankind back then and what McCormack delivers is exactly what scared me about him. His posture, his concealed face and the way he’d sing and talk to himself is all here. McCormack’s Undertaker and Paul Bearer is just as good as they are the fully gothy heroes people loved to cheer for. The ultimate betrayal and the carrying away of Undertaker doesn’t even need the dialogue because McCormack makes you feel that entirely. Cunniffe’s color from start to finish are deliciously dark and moody. It’s a really different look than what we’ve seen in the series so far and it makes me crave more of this.
“The New Day’s Optimistic Odyssey: Part Five” by Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Guillory, Taylor Wells and Jim Campbell
This is the one story in the issue that is a continuation of something we’ve seen in the core series and it continues to be a blast. The New Day is the most innovative and exciting groups the WWE has had in a very long time and they got over by just being themselves. “The New Day’s Optimistic Odyssey” has been a ton of fun from the beginning and this installment of this arc is no different. Thibodeaux has found a really funny way to keep things going. He takes wrestling, pop culture references and the personalities of the New Day into this perfect blend of zany. It’s the exact kind of story this team deserves. Rob Guillory’s art is full of lots of funny gags and I think of all the artists in this anthology, he captures the spirit of his characters the most. He doesn’t rely on realism but there’s no doubt who these guys are. Little things like Big E’s constant attempt to fix his little action figure will make you actually laugh out loud and he really goes there with the big unicorn battle. Wells’ colors are bright as bright as the New Day in real life and extremely appealing. Wells and Guillory give us the answer to what a New Day animated series would look like.
“The Natural Disasters vs. The Bushwhackers” by Derek Fridolfs, Fred Stresing and Jim Campbell
On the whole, this is a very good anthology but and while none of the stories are actually bad, this one wasn’t my favorite but Fridolfs and Stresing provide such cute imagery. This is basically a big fight in the ring and out of the ring featuring the Natural Disasters and the Bushwhackers in a style that will remind you of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons. This style is so different from anything you’d expect in a WWE comic but it’s so cute and so perfect for these two comedic leaning teams. I would read a series in this style if the story had a little more meat. With that said, the characterizations are very good, especially the Mouth From the South Jimmy Hart.
“Give the Demon His Due” by Aaron Gillespie, Selina Espiritu, Jeremy Lawson and Jim Campbell
The last story in this issue is one that spotlights last year’s first ever Universal title match between Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. One of the most interesting things about Finn Balor is his demon persona and with comic books, that gets to be explored and used in a way that can’t really work on television. We saw this already in the core series with a back up story that told the origin of the Demon and Finn Balor and with this story, we see the Demon mess with Seth Rollins a bit. While sort, the story is effective and it’s really sold by Espiritu and Lawson’s art. Espiritu touches on horror with how the Demon appears always out of eye shot of Seth Rollins. Seth is out of his element and his fear comes through despite his hard exterior. Espiritu has a great eye for what the Demon should look like and makes him actually scary. Lawson’s colors are strong as he leans in hard into the darkness with the Demon and really puts together a chilling contrast between he and Rollins.
Jim Campbell does the lettering for the entire issue and he’s able to do a lot of different things for lots of different wrestlers and really puts the finishing touches on how these characters sound. The thing I’ve noticed with this and the Wrestlemania special earlier in the year is that this is the opportunity for BOOM! to let creators explore the past more. It’s the good kind of nostalgia and I look forward to more of these specials in years to come.