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WWE: Then. Now. Forever: Love in Hard Times

Written by Ashley Leckwold on Friday, November 18 2016 and posted in Reviews

WWE: Then. Now. Forever: Love in Hard Times

Eschewing the usual expectation for comics about pro-wrestling, the new licensed book from Boom! brings the right amount of love and ridiculousness.


Source: Boom! Studios

Written by: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs

Art by: Dan Mora, Rob Schamberger, Rob Guillory, Daniel Bayliss, Derek Fridolfs

As a wrestling fan, there is a type of fan I prefer spending my time with. No, not the self-inflated know-it-all smark crowd that hangs out in the comments section of Cageside Seats.

No, it's the fangirls. The intelligent ones who beg for better characterization of women wrestlers, who write pages of meta on the friendship between two wrestlers, who scream obscenities when their heart breaks for their favorites and scream more when good things happen. Give me your poor, your tired, and your huddled fangirls wishing for more time devoted to the character motivations of people like The Shield, The Four Horsewomen, Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, amongst others. For they have a lot more interesting things to say than the 500th guy going on about why John Cena isn't a good wrestler in 2016.

Luckily for them, Boom! Studios has provided us well in their new relationship with the WWE.

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WWE: Then. Now. Forever. is the first comic in Boom's upcoming WWE line that is launching in January. Instead of trying to write elaborate and nonsensical AU stories about these characters, the comics seem to be focusing more inward, pulling back the curtain on the lives of the characters we see in the ring every week. Not to say there isn't ridiculousness to be had; it is pro-wrestling after all, but the comics seem to accept that and just roll with it, instead of trying to turn it into something else.

The main story of the comic is written by Dennis Hopeless with art by Dan Mora and is about the lead up to the destruction of The Shield. Something of a benchmark moment in modern WWE history that a lot of newer fans roll back to, Hopeless and Mora try to get into the head of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in the days before Rollins' betrayal to join The Authority. Especially in recent light of Seth's slow-going face turn, seeing the doubt and uncertainty expressed by these three over secrets not shared is especially heart-rending. It doesn't hurt as much as a chairshot, but Hopeless certainly goes for the emotional equivalent of it when Seth throws himself on a jacked up truck to protect Dean and Roman.

That jacked up truck is driven by The Wyatt Family, that they crash into a fancy yacht club in Savannah, GA the day after Dean crashes a mac truck that he stole to get potato salad into their bumper. Like I said, believable in the realm of ridiculousness. Hopeless strikes this balance pretty damn well in the writing, but Mora's art is what really pulls it off. It's fluid and expressive, but still manages to replicate the likeness of The Shield and The Wyatts pretty damn well. I don't know where he's been hiding, but I'd love to see him on more books after this.

The first back up story is one about The New Day written by Ross Thibodeaux and drawn by Rob Guillory. If you're familiar with Guillory's art through Chew or the Thor Annual story he did with CM Punk, you probably have an idea of what this story is like. Hell, if you know The New Day, you definitely know what this story is like. Out of the four in the book, it's easily the most over the top and out there, but if any story was going to feature wrestlers traveling back in time in a cardboard box to see Ric Flair wrestle a dinosaur Brock Lesnar, I would 100% want it to involve The New Day. And yes, it is super colorful, positive and so not booty.

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The story that has probably gotten most traction on Twitter though is the four page Sasha Banks story done by WWE artist Rob Schamberger. It's the first time his painterly style has been applied to sequential art, but it also talks to the emotion wrestling brings out in us and the way inspiration passes down from one generation of wrestlers to the next. In four pages, Schamberger reminds us that even for the most cynical of wrestling fans, it all boils down to love. The love that Sasha has for Eddie Guerrero is what drives her now and what will pass down to the younger generation of girls looking up at their TV saying "I want to do that."

Living up to the motto of "Then. Now. Forever," the book ends with a darling short story about Tugboat by Derek Fridolfs that is reminiscent of old Popeye cartoons and the one page comics that were distributed at San Diego Comic Con. There, the message is simple: there is a lot of backstory and history with the WWE, but we're here to help you learn to be a part of this story. The fact the book closes out on Dusty Rhodes declaring "the love that was given to me, in this time, I will repay you now" is not lost on me.

If you're a fan of WWE, WWE: Then. Now. Forever is going to be absolutely essential reading for you. It's emotional and kind of ridiculous, but so is pro-wrestling. It isn't here to try and be another kind of story but rather a supplement to something you already know and love. It is there to tell you more of the story you follow along at home and extrapolate on with your friends or in your head instead of rewarding you for hanging on every word of the dirtsheets.





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About the Author - Ashley Leckwold


Ashley Leckwold is a writer based out of Atlanta who is the cross-section of a magical girl and a demon queen. She has done a whole other host of weirdness, including work at Steampunk Chronicle, Nerdophiles, the Ratchet Retrocast, The Rainbow Hub, PopOptiq and the Killer Queen and 27 anthologies published through Red Stylo Media. Most of her current work is non-fictional and found at her blog as well as Graphic Policy. She can often be found on Twitter at @misskittyf crying about comics, TV, pro-wrestling and music.


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