A little while back, I touted Palooka as a successful wrestling comic. Afterwards, in discussing its positive attributes with our fearless leader, Chuck, we concluded that it isn’t necessarily a “wrestling” comic per se. For example, If you take the protagonist of Palooka, Mortie, and make him the lovable loser that he is in the same story but he happens to be a boxer, bouncer or a dog catcher, you’ll still have a good story. It still holds up even if you change some of the elements.
But what happens when you take WWE Superstars out of their hyperkinetic world of steel cages and ladder matches and insert them into a gritty, noir style thriller?
Papercutz imprint Super Genius Comics and the WWE aim to find out. The results of their experiment are bound in their first WWE SUPERSTARS graphic novel “Money in the Bank”. Written by WWE legend Mick Foley along with Shane Riches and illustrated by Alitha E. Martinez with Puste.
Foley transports his co-workers and friends to Titan City a place, according to CM Punk, that’s “been turned into a concrete vampire sucking the hope out of its people.”
Joining CM Punk, who’s a civic activist organizing a rally against the corrupt system in Titan City, are Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio who are both running for District Attorney, and the Undertaker (who runs a tattoo parlor called The Funeral Parlor, I suppose if he ran an actual funeral parlor that would be too “on the nose”) plus John Cena, an ex-cop recently released from prison so he can clear his name and find the suitcase containing the $10 million dollars he was framed for stealing. Incidentally, $10 million dollars would not fit in a suitcase. It would fit in a small trunk and weigh about 200 pounds.
Despite the comic starring WWE Superstars and Divas, there is no actual wrestling going on. Yes, there is fighting; in alley ways and hotel rooms, but the closest it comes to a match in the ring is in the community center, which happens to have a wrestling ring in it.
Mick Foley is a gifted writer. I recommend any of his New York Times bestsellers including any of his highly engaging autobiographies; Have a Nice Day (67,000 sold), Foley Is Good (165,000 sold), and The Hardcore Diaries (53,000 sold) or fiction (Tietam Brown, Scooter). This isn’t even his first foray into comics, look for R.P.M. by 12-Gauge Comics. However, despite crafting a complex world of corruption and political backstabbing, WWE Superstars seems to stumble a little.
The first hurdle Foley and company have to go over is the cast itself. Tasked with using the brand name Superstars of the WWE, Foley shoehorns them into Mickey Spillane-esque roles.
WWE Superstars and Divas are already over-the-top-rope larger than life characters who live in a world where disputes are settled with a crack of a steel chair across the back. Whenever they enter a room, their theme music plays and the pyrotechnics explodes! Do you know how awesome it would be if I had music and pyrotechnic display? I’d go to the mall, the laundromat and church happily every single day!
Yet, to tell his tale, Foley had to pare down these characters and turn the Viper, the Dead Man and the World’s Most Dangerous Vegetarian into politicians, advocates and small business proprietors. Once you get past the novelty of seeing Hornswoggle as an underground information broker you are left with a decent story.
Honestly, what are you really buying this comic for, the WWE Superstars in pulse pounding action or a gritty tale of an ex-cop investigating grand larceny and a civic leader trying to rally the people?
For my personal taste in comics, I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if it were a space opera where Daniel Bryan has to rescue Brie Bella only to discover that the Undertaker is his father, And Brie is his sister. (Ew)
Or…what if they were super-powered Superstars and CM Punk comes from the future to warn everyone that Triple H takes over the world with his giant Kane robots and the have to keep AJ Lee from dating Dolph Ziggler to keep it from happening.
Better yet: They are all battling for the throne of Titanos, Hornswoggle tries to fight for survival as his father Vince McMahon manipulates for control of the Seven Kingdoms and his scheming siblings Triple H and Stephanie McMahon grosses everyone out while Maryse is in a far off land raising dragons biding her time to take it all back.
Alitha Martinez is a very good illustrator. Being tasked with creating accurate likenesses of the Superstars and then interpreting athletic wrestling moves into comic style forms seems a daunting task but she does an excellent job of both. She is able to bring a style and storytelling that is appropriate for the story. She is also very good at creating realistic backgrounds in Titan City which grounds the story in a real setting.
Punte (pseudonym for Spanish artist David Anton Gomis), adds a prologue in the graphic novel called “The Long Goodbye”, an exclusive prequel to the main story, only found before in a limited edition giveaway comic produced for HOT TOPIC. Punte has a completely different style from Martinez. which threw me off since he provides the art for the climactic mash-up. I have to question some of the artistic choices he made, the way he arranged the elements and characters on the page do not flow easily. Although he does a good job of re-creating the wrestling action, unfortunately the climactic final scene he illustrated appears rushed.
I’m a lifelong WWE fan. I’m also a lifelong comic book fan. Yet, my two favorite forms of entertainment never seem to mesh.
What does work in this book is the value; 96 pages for only $9.99! Whatever is not working with this book is not the fault of the talent. They are all talented and have proven themselves in their earlier works. Apparently, when you take a product like this and start to scrutinize it you will see all of its cracks.
WWE Superstars #1 is just meant to be enjoyed for what it is. One big wrestling comic mashup.
WWE SUPERSTARS #1: “Money in the Bank” ships to all comic book specialty shops on June 11th and ships to all other retail outlets on June 17th.
96 pages, full-color trade paperback, $9.99
ISBN: 9781597077200 | Diamond: APR141313
Juan Carlos Pineda would actually like to adapt Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights using kittens.
Million dollar image courtesy of www.cockeyed.com