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Review: WWE Heroes #1

Titan Comics sent me a copy (two actually) of the issue to review, so here are my thoughts on WWE Heroes #1…

Layout 1Title: WWE Heroes #1
Story by: Keith Champagne
Art by: Andy Smith
Colors by: Hi Fi Color Design
Letters by: Comicraft
Cover by: Andy Smith, Liam Sharpe
Publisher: Titan Comics
Cover price: $3.99 (USD)
Release Date: March 23rd, 2010
Rating: [-***]

I feel kind of bad hating this comic as much as I do. After all, Keith Champagne was nice enough to answer my questions and Titan was nice enough to send me two copies of the first issue (one of each cover). But, this is a very, very bad comic. The only thing that I can say worked was the lettering. Comicraft did their usual solid work. Everything else? Well, you can see my rating.

Given that this is a wrestling comic, I figured I’d use the rating system that I use when rating wrestling matches, not the regular CBR one where they won’t let us give books negative ratings. This book, though, was the comic book equivalent of the Nasty Boys and Jimmy Hart winning a three-on-three tag match. Or a botched Divas match. If there were a comic equivalent of Botchamania, this book would get its own little video.

I’ll admit that I’m biased against wrestling comics despite my love of wrestling. I’ve never really read one that appealed to me as a wrestling or comic fan, so it’s easy to gain an anti-wrestling comics bias. That said, I would love for one to be amazing and win me over. However, there’s something about the broad characters and quick action that make wrestling a tough adaptation for comics. The characters in wrestling lack a certain depth you want in comics, meant to play on a broad live stage with exaggerated mannerisms and simple motivations. Their promos are over-the-top often and somewhat laughable when they get too serious. But, part of what makes that work is the wrestlers themselves: you accept the bombastic promos of Triple H or John Cena because, well, an actual human is saying the words and seems to believe in what they’re saying. A character on the page doesn’t give that sense of conviction, that permission to go along with it, because you aren’t alone.

Wrestling is also a form of entertainment meant for the audience, the shared experience. Even if you watch a match all alone, there’s still a crowd, there are still the commentators, still some semblance of the idea that you aren’t alone in enjoying this somewhat outlandish, ludicrous behavior. I don’t think that I need or look to others to give me permission to like wrestling, but that sense that you’re part of a bigger group that’s also enjoying it is part of the basic, intrinsic level of wrestling. Taking that feeling of shared experience away changes it. The comic lacks that. It also lacks the space to really get across the action. What wrestlers can do in a few seconds would take a page to get across in a comic properly.

Layout 1So, without those elements, it’s easy to see why Champagne tried to introduce new elements to play with the idea of the wrestlers in a way that comics can do, but the live shows can’t. It really doesn’t work, though.

The basic plot of the comic is that, long, long ago, there were two brothers: the Firstborn and the King of Shadows. They fought and the Firstborn won, scarring the left half of the King of Shadows’s face. Throughout history, they’ve been reincarnated and fought against one another as the King of Shadows sought revenge. Now, it appears that the Firstborn is one of the WWE superstars. In this issue, the King of Shadows accesses the memories of one of his priests, seeing wrestling matches and trying to find his brother.

Now, taken along, that idea isn’t totally awful. It’s pretty bad, but when you show it by having wrestling matches juxtaposed with wars throughout history, it just becomes absurd. Comparing a match between the Undertaker and Edge to the American Civil War? A triple threat match at WrestleMania XXIV to World War II? Those were real wars where real people died and wrestling is fictional characters fighting another for the entertainment of people. Putting the two side by side shouldn’t happen, because it just makes the wrestling look cheap and stupid, which I would hope isn’t the goal of the comic.

The WWE superstars aren’t really the stars of their own comic here, which is an odd choice. Only a handful actually appear more than once and, when they do, it’s in poorly drawn fights that don’t really tell any story, acting as meaningless action. Champagne uses real matches as the basis for what we see, but changes what happens when it suits him (like John Cena winning the triple threat match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXIV). Or even the order the matches. Not only that, but there isn’t really an explanation of how one of the wrestlers is the Firstborn. While that will come later, telling us how their little recurring reincarnation dance goes would be helpful. As it is, everything is so mysterious that there’s no way to get inside the story.

It doesn’t help that Andy Smith’s art is flat-out awful. He’s done better work than this in the past. Given the amount of reference material to show the wrestlers in action, you’d think I would be able to tell who people are more easily than I can. And I’m a pretty hardcore fan, owning DVDs, checking out (and writing for) online sites, and spending far more time on wrestling than some would consider healthy. When I can’t tell who is in the ring, there’s a problem. Smith turns them in generic forms of who they are. The action looks stuff and unnatural. I like how he sometimes opts for perspectives not given by the camera since why not do something that the WWE doesn’t do?

One way that the wrestlers become generic is in body type. They all have very similar physiques with the same musculature, something that isn’t the case in real life (despite what people may think). Many of the wrestlers here are a lot less built or are muscular in different ways. John Cena, for example, is very muscular, but in a more straight-forward manner where his arms are just huge. Instead of the lumps of twelve different muscles that Smith draws, he’s just got these insanely, almost freakishly, large biceps. Guys like Matt Hardy and Tommy Dreamer aren’t as well defined as they are here, making up for the lack of obvious, superficial musculature with cardiovascular abilities and, you know, skill. Rowdy Roddy Piper even shows up looking in better shape in the supposed 2008 Royal Rumble at the age of 53 than he ever has in his life — and, trust me, he looks a lot worse at 53.

Beyond that, the coloring also goes for generic portrayals of the characters. Why does Piper have red hair? Why do R-Truth and Kofi Kingston have such light skin colors? Have you seen R-Truth? That guy is dark. But, here, he looks Latino.

Another big issue is that the King of Shadows looks exactly like Triple H, particularly, as Chris Sims pointed out, when Trips was in his King of Kings persona where he adopted a Conan-esque wardrobe. Now, it could turn out that the King of Shadows will become Triple H or replace him or something to get a chance to fight his brother, but why telegraph that? And, if not, it seems unnecessarily confusing.

My girlfriend saw the copies of these comics and she watches wrestling with me usually, so she picked it up… and put it down after a minute, because it was that bad. She’s a casual fan, I’m a hardcore fan, neither of us liked this. I wanted to, I even tried to, but it’s impossible to deny that WWE Heroes #1 is a very, very, very bad comic and you shouldn’t waste your money on it.

18 Comments

So disappointing; I’m with you in that there’s never, ever been a good wrestling comic, but I’m always hoping the latest will be the greatest. I was actually kind of excited about the “Brothers” storyline, if only because it would have been so, so easy to form a decent Undertaker/Kane background out of it and go from there, but obviously they went a stranger – and more confusing – route.

Plus, I suppose they already tried that with Chaos! Comics’ “Undertaker” series…and who exactly wants to follow in the footsteps of anything Chaos! did?

The Flying Flea

March 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for the in-depth review. More than this book deserves. Having Cena on the cover is enough for me to pass, but as a wrasslin fan I was intrigued. I don’t see why writers can’t structure a book just like the shows. Treat the wrestlers as characters and just tell a good backstage story. Have a couple fights like any superhero comic, etc. It’s not rocket science.

i stopped reading this crappy article when you said that matt hardy and tommy dreamer had on skill (if i read it right),

Goodbye

Well, Matt Hardy more than Tommy Dreamer… but you don’t survive in the business, particularly in the WWE, without skill of some kind.

Clearly, the WWE would make a perfect manga, about a newcomer character trying to go through the ranks, with ridiculous volume-length battles in the ring and ridiculous behind-the-scenes machinations.

There has been one really good wrestling comic, actually. “Whoa Nellie!” by Jaime Hernandez isn’t just a great wrestling comic, it’s a great comic period. I recommend it highly. Now, WWE Heroes? It was so bad that the guys at the comic shop wouldn’t let me buy it.

I’ve always thought that if WWE wanted to make a comic book, they should’ve just created a Hurricane series. I think it’s a no-brainer decision, but that’s just me.

“Now, it could turn out that the King of Shadows will become Triple H or replace him or something to get a chance to fight his brother, but why telegraph that? And, if not, it seems unnecessarily confusing.”

Triple H is in the center of all covers. Triple H looks like the actual protagonist of the fictional story of the comic. WWE has released statements for Smackdown vs RAW games that Triple H must not be shown at anytime in screenshots in a vulnerable position. Triple H is infamous in the IWC for “burying”. Triple H is infamous for always being the last man standing tall in every single one of his feuds. Triple H is married to his boss’s daughter and Triple H has been with the company for very long.

You could say he has every way to make himself and make people depict him as… I don’t want to say Gary Stu because a lot of people react angrily at that term since they take it as “character you don’t like baw!”… but “something that’s perfect, undefeated and the center of everything” in every piece of official fiction (be it game, story, storyline) from now and forever. What’s the term for that?

Leaving aside the HHH hating that the internet loves, be it justified or not… I agree that the book was hillariously bad. I mean, not even taking the fictional stuff, sometimes I felt like it would benefit from the removal of word balloons during wrestling scenes. Seeing dialogue like the “Ugh! Screw you both!” (you know which scene) just feels extremely wrong, it doesn’t fit, no heel or face or tweener has ever talked like that in those situations; hell, people almost never talk audibly during wrestling, and when they do, it can become a character trait (like Orton going “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”) or it’s a botch. One thing is cheesy, other is nonsensical, and the dialogue was the second.

“I’ve always thought that if WWE wanted to make a comic book, they should’ve just created a Hurricane series. I think it’s a no-brainer decision, but that’s just me.”

Helms was sadly released from the WWE around a month ago, due to a situation that was heavily reported. Too bad, because The Hurricane was indeed entertaining (even more so with all his winks to american superhero comics).

Other good rasslin’ comics:
.
Boneshaker by Phil Hester. I think these originally ran in Negative Burn. One story was about a numbskull gangster trying to fix a match, not knowing it’s all pre-planned anyway. Another was after Bonshaker dies and becomes a hero on another world. Both are really well done, as you would expect from Hester.
.
The Holy Terror by Hester and Jason Caskey was also solid and fun.

you say that matt hardy is unskilled you obviously don’t no anything about wrestling. A small amount of people just hate on people for no reason

If I’m reading correctly, he is actually saying the exact opposite: Matt isn’t muscular, so he has to put more technical work into his wrestling to leave a mark. Unlike other wrestlers like, just as an example, Batista, that are pure muscle and have to work with that, going for a “power” slow style.

Exactly. CriticalFel got it right. I rather like Matt Hardy (not a fan of Jeff, though). He’s just not the most muscular/toned guy — which is fine, because he delivers quality matches.

oh ok i thought it was just another diss at Matt Hardy which some peope love doing. Even though in my opinion he’s one of the best in the ring nowadays.

Don’t piss off the wrestling fans, Chad, they’re our bread and butter!

I bought this one because I have bought all wrestling-related comics, with the big exception of everything Chaos! did in the late 90s-early 00s, since Valiant comics WWF Battlemania way back when. I am giving it until issue number three to start coming together a little better. Of course, due to the advance order cycles, I’m already committed to the first three issues anyway. There are actually some elements to the story that I like, but it did feel like it was just hints of a good story and the artwork from Andy Smith (who I usually like) is not his best stuff by a longshot. The review here detailed everything I hated about the art, so no reason to get into it again.

Perhaps it’s better for people to say there’s never been a good WWF/WWE licensed comic. There have been plenty of indy books of high quality like Raph Navarro’s Sonambulo (lucha libre detective comics for the US audience) and Mike Kingston’s Headlocked series are two that come to mind that haven’t been mentioned.

I’ll second the call for Headlocked as a good wrestling comic, but one that’s always overlooked would be Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #14, from back in 2002. Written by Brian Azzarello and Scott “Raven” Levy, it’s a look at a fairly little-known character in the Marvel universe, Crusher Hogan, the man that Peter Parker embarassed in an “all-comers” challenge back in Spidey’s very first appearance. Specifically, it tells the story of how his employer was losing money and facing bankruptcy, until they came up with a new idea to ramp up interest again. It’s a truthful, touching, and, at times, painful look behind the curtain… and just when you think it’s all going to turn out well, they bring you crashing down again in the end.

Just remember, though, there IS a Botchamania for comics. Just email Linkara about donating a copy of the book to him, and eventually, it’ll get ripped to shreds with its very own little video…

maybe its woud be good ,its looks great latter we gonna see if is good the comics

Spoiler: (like it matters)

In the second issue I hear that h}{h and Jericho get murdered by terrorists at Wrestlemania.

It’s not like they are playing different people. They are “themselves” that we watch every week.

Killing two of your top characters in the second issue is a big no no for any story.

And to think that people have to pay 60 bucks to see WM and a bunch of terrorists ruin it and they have to
witness two brutal murders on live TV.

Killing wrestlers in a sport that many wrestlers already have died in real life in just not cool. And pretty classless.

It doesn’t matter that the comic sucks. This sickens me. This goes farther than South Park has ever gone.

This is just something that should be stopped.

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