Written by Adrian Care
PopCultHQ received an advanced review copy of WWE #25 from BOOM! Studios. Available February 6th, 2019, the creative team for this series features writing from Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, art from Serg Acuña, colors from Doug Garbark, and lettering from Jim Campbell.
Here’s PopCultHQ’s Spoiler-Free Review of…
Writer: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Artist: Serg Acuña
Colorist: Doug Garbark
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Main Cover: Marco D’Alfonso
Preorder Cover: Xermánico
Variant Cover: Marco D’Alfonso
Unlocked Retailer Variant: Eric Garza
All of the sacrifices AJ Styles has made have paid off—he’s atop the mountain of WWE and retains the WWE Championship. But there’s no time to rest, as perhaps his most dangerous challenge awaits—the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe.
PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
He’s the champ that runs the camp. Smackdown Live’s longest-running champion…the phenomenal A.J. Styles. But all that success and prestige takes a back seat when the destroyer, Samoa Joe wants to take everything A.J. has, and he’s starting with the real estate in A.J.s head.
Relive the recent feud, the mind games, the triumph and the terror between A.J and Joe as the two former friends clash all over the globe and Joe takes the battle over some lines that should never be crossed.
How is Dennis Hopeless not a bigger star by now? He’s shown creative ingenuity and a flair for writing a ripping, entertaining book since Arcana Studios’ gem Gearhead. His bibliography includes the excellent Avengers Arena and the double-down success Avengers Undercover. A terrific run on All New X-Men, as well as the Jamie McKelvie-illustrated X-Men: Season One graphic novel. Plus a fantastic run in 2014 on Spider-Woman. The man weaves intriguing tales so naturally, he probably has a literal x-gene in his DNA.
He also clearly does his research, as his stories are packed to the gills with detail, and his concrete run on Boom Studios’ WWE title has been further proof.
WWE #25 is no different. Hopeless adapts and encapsulates the entire A.J. Styles vs. Samoa Joe feud of last year with (pardon the pun) style. He captures the voice of each character exactly. He conveys the emotions that run high throughout the issue perfectly, he does justice to Joe’s cold and calculating persona. He juggles the family, friendship, legacy, competition and rivalry themes with perfect dexterity. He picks up on the smaller, subtle moments and uses them to drive the story home. He finds a way to chop and trim the fat, the elements that weren’t so successful from the feud, and adds moments that outdo the very story he’s adapting. If WWE is paying attention to what Dennis is doing with this book, they should throw Brock Lesnar money at him immediately to write their shows.
Serg Acuña was genetically created in a lab owned by Vince McMahon to bring his Superstars to life in comic book form. If you want to see how to perfectly adapt all the emotion, nuance, and especially action from your TV screens to the page, Acuña puts on a master class. His visual likenesses to the real-life performers are spot-on, if not generous, to some of the wrestler’s physiques. He does smash mouth, fast-paced action with a manga sensibility without sacrificing too much realism. He compliments Hallum’s attention to detail with his own. Relishing in the smaller moments, emphasizing the tension, forming a great synergy between writer and artist. Props too for the background work, the settings. People don’t appreciate this aspect enough, but in a book where the aim is to capture the whole WWE universe, it’s important that backstage moments look authentic, or that having the Sydney Opera House as the backdrop to an international tour doesn’t go unnoticed.
It’s a tough task for a colorist to balance realism with pure entertainment. On the Star Trek/ Green Lantern crossover, Doug Garbark showed a strong ability to utilize the wide spectrum the story called for. In Last Sons of America, he used a more subdued, atmospheric palette to really give a certain feel to the reading experience. On this title, he merges both those abilities so that the real moments feel as though they’re candidly captured, and the in-ring sections capture the colourful characters and bright lights with energy and excitement.
Jim Campbell is a letterer that knows when to turn it up (see the lettering work on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) and when to play it down (the excellence of the lettering in Giant Days). His work in this issue is an exercise in controlled subtlety. The placement and usage of word balloons is as clear and concise as can be. You know when the characters are speaking and when they’re yelling in anger or passion, just as much as you know when the announcers are giving the reader a little bit of exposition. His choice of style for settings is visually on brand, and his control of when exactly he uses big sound effects brings more weight to events. In this issue, he has the lettering down like fine motor control.
PopCultHQ’s Overall Assessment:
The WWE series has been a gift to comic book and wrestling fans from the very start. Issue 25 is a prime example of what a creative team that runs like a well-oiled machine can do adapting a licensed property and elevating it on every level. Ensuring that it even exceeds the source material. This issue will make you want to fire up the WWE Network and relive the entire feud between A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe. There is a great crossover of fans between wrestling and comics; I think the creative team on WWE #25 caters to that. They understand both fanbases, respect and appreciate them, and invite new fans to take a seat and mark out along with them.
4 out of 5 Stars
WWE #25 can be pre-ordered on ComiXology
and available at your local comic shop and
online retailers Wednesday, February 6th!
Be sure to follow the creative team!
Writer – Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Artist – Serg Acuña
Colorist – Doug Garbark
Letterer – Jim Campbell
Publisher – BOOM! Studios