Liam Hoofe reviews Boom! Studios’ WWE SummerSlam Special 2017…
WWE SummerSlam is one of the company’s biggest PPV’s and it has a long and storied history spanning back 29 years. The latest WWE special, SummerSlam 2017, from Boom! Studios gives us four stories based on historical moments and matches from the show, lovingly recreating them for long time lovers of the WWE product.
The first story in the collection is I Wined and Dined with Kings and Queens, a panel based on the matchup between Dusty Rhodes and Macho Man Randy Savage from the 1990 edition of the show. Told from the perspective of a fan who can’t decide which of the two stars he is loyal to in the build-up to the match, the story is an affectionate love letter to being a younger fan. SummerSlam has always had a special place in my heart as a fan, it was the first PPV I watched, and this took me back to the days before I really understood the business and just accepted Kayfabe as reality.
Okay, so the payoff to the story is not all that strong, but on the whole, it’s a nice tribute to two of the greatest wrestlers to have ever stepped foot inside a WWE ring. Artist Daniel Bayliss also deserves credit here for his marvelous depiction of the two greats, especially Macho Man, whose personality really jumps out from the page.
The cream of this crop is the second story, In The Mandible of Madness, which focuses on Mankind and Undertaker’s iconic boiler room brawl from SummerSlam 1996. Not only is the story visually striking and expertly told, but it also offers a fun insight into Mankind’s psyche in the build-up to the event and features a cracking highlight reel of Taker’s achievements in the WWE up until that point.
It is also, by some way, the biggest story in the collection, spanning 16 pages of the book’s 41. The unique setting and larger than life characters allow for plenty of depth in this story, and writers Ryan Ferrier and Clay McCormack deserve a lot of credit for their excellent work here, as does artist Dee Cunniffe. Cunniffe’s visuals are atmospheric and striking, taking you back to the Attitude Era and reminding you exactly why you fell in love with the WWE. His recreation of Mankind and his schizophrenic character changes are also nothing short of exceptional. Mankind is a unique character, one who looks as though he belongs between the pages of a comic book and Cunniffe really manages to tap into that.
Once Boom! Studios are finished with their current Shield storyline, an exploration of either Mankind or The Undertaker should be a priority for them because this stuff is excellent.
The next story is the New Day’s Optimistic Odyssey Part 5. As the title of this suggests, there are four parts before this one, and well, I haven’t read them. It’s candy-colored and stupid stuff that will likely amuse children, but it doesn’t really have much place between the rest of these stories.
If you were asked to choose a SummerSlam match to commemorate in a comic book, then chances are you wouldn’t choose the 1991 tag team match between The Bushwhackers and The Natural Disasters, but that is what they’ve decided to do here. The strip, which is onlyfour pages long, is fun enough to pass a few minutes and feels like the comic book equivalent of the penultimate match on a PPV, you know, the one that is basically a toilet break.
The main event of the comic is Giving the Demon His Due, a surprisingly small piece about the build-up to last year’s inaugural Universal Title match between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Writer Aaron Gillespie decides here to focus on Seth’s preparation for the match as the overly confident heel. Seth is being plagued with visions of Balor in his sleep and in the locker room before the bout and struggles to focus on how he is going to walk away the Universal Champion. Unfortunately, the strip decides to just focus on this and gives us no real in-ring action, which kind of leaves the whole thing feeling a little anti-climactic. The build up stuff is good and works as a nice addition to Balor’s character (especially considering how wasted he is on TV right now) but the payoff feels pretty weak.
Overall, SummerSlam 2017 is a fun little collection of stories that is solid, not spectacular. The first two stories, especially In The Mandible of Madness are particularly strong, while the following three stories never quite reach those heights. If nothing else, it serves as a healthy dose of nostalgia before this Sunday’s big event and with Boom! Studios just announcing they have one of these in line for Survivor Series too, let’s hope they continue to take us on these pleasant trips down memory lane over the next few years.
Liam Hoofe – @liamhoofe