Comic books are an ideal medium for translating WWE action into a new form.
What unfolds inside the squared circle parallels much of what comics already contain. WWE is colorful, filled with larger-than-life characters and offers plenty of violence to fill up a page's panels.
But Boom Studios' WWE comic series isn't a mere adaptation of what happens in the ring—it's an expansion of those stories. It builds upon WWE's world, adding new layers, veering in fun directions, exploring what goes untouched on Raw and SmackDown.
Writer Dennis Hopeless begins with Seth Rollins' turn toward darkness and betrayal of The Shield and travels deeper into that narrative than WWE did itself. He imagines what mischief and misadventure would await Dean Ambrose if the character roamed free after the cameras were off.
Dan Mora and Serg Acuna evoke the spirit of WWE's Superstars, giving Bray Wyatt's glare an unsettling glimmer, capturing both Big E's tank-like frame and his goofy charm.
Boom Studios' WWE comic series reads like a tribute to pro wrestling. It's beautifully drawn, vibrant and dynamic. But that's not what makes it special. It's imagined paths for Rollins, Ambrose and the rest of the roster is.
Redesigning Rollins' Tale
The Boom Studios journey into WWE history begins with the end of The Shield.
As his brothers-in-arms Ambrose and Roman Reigns stand in the ring, awaiting their enemies' arrival, Rollins lurks behind them with a steel chair in hand. He is positioned behind his stablemates, at the perfect distance to plunge a knife into their backs.
To WWE fans, that's a familiar scene. They all know what's coming next, from Rollins smashing Ambrose and Reigns with the chair to The Architect joining The Authority in one of the most memorable heel turns in recent memory.
But WWE Vol. 1: Redesign Rebuild Reclaim (which contains issues No. 1-4) does not remain in familiar territory for long.
Before we see Rollins destroy The Shield, chair shot by chair shot, the book cuts to the trio barbecuing on the roof of an 18-wheeler. An irate Ambrose kicks over the grill when he learns there's no potato salad. The Lunatic Fringe starts barreling out of the parking lot in the truck.
Not a second of that was on Raw.
This is just the start of an imagined backstory to help bolster the tale of The Shield's fall and Rollins' rise to redemption afterward. We see Triple H welcome Rollins onto a yacht for a secret meeting. We flash back to Rollins' childhood to better understand his aspirations to become champion.
The timeline follows what unfolded on WWE TV for the most part with WrestleMania, Money in the Bank and Rollins' knee injury occurring as they did onscreen.
It's the time in between that Boom Studios has its most fun. New action, additional peeks at a character's motivation and scenes well outside the ring all arise.
And it all makes for a more satisfying story.
In the pages of the comic books, The Shield and The Wyatt Family deliver a superior feud to the one that unfolded in WWE arenas. The factions fight in a field lit by car headlights, a bloody brawl complete with blunt weapons.
The comics go where WWE doesn't have the time or resources to go.
A Lunatic, a Boss and a Beast
In WWE Vol. 2: Lunatic Fringe, Ambrose becomes the central figure. The story of his feud with Brock Lesnar leading up to WrestleMania 32 welcomes even more of Hopeless' narrative wanderings.
BOOM! Studios @boomstudios
It's the start of a new story arc as the Lunatic Fringe @TheDeanAmbrose provokes The Beast @BrockLesnar in @WWE #5, in comic shops today! https://t.co/Up6DztNNYX2017-5-31 18:12:16
The comic reveals Ambrose's inner monologue in the parking lot after his Asylum Match with Chris Jericho.
We see him reflect on surviving that battle before car trouble triggers a series of events that lead to him facing down Lesnar. In the process, a collection of images born outside of WWE programming flashes on the pages—Roman Reigns recovering from wounds backstage, Ambrose tossing Sasha Banks a Money in the Bank briefcase to use as a weapon.
Lesnar looks even more monstrous in comic form, the artists allowed to manipulate his features.
The Beast Incarnate and Ambrose clash in a parking lot. A fire ax and an engine's alternator serve as weapons in a fight that looks more like the war many expected them to have at WrestleMania.
The Banks-Ambrose dynamic is nonexistent in WWE canon. In the comic book, it's a partnership of rebels that works perfectly.
Banks, as a result, gets more time to tell her story than she does on Raw. We see her coming to Ambrose's aid, driving in a demolition derby, looking even more badass than she does in the ring.
And it's not Banks who benefits from a writer's touch.
The Wyatt Family extends beyond the members we know of as broad-shouldered women in sheep masks apparently follow Wyatt's command. Ambrose's backstory goes even deeper when the comic book pages uncover his fictional backyard wrestling past.
WWE doesn't need to venture as far outside of the ring as the comics do, but there are surely lessons to be learned from the stories gracing these pages.
In the Pages to Come
Boom Studios has clearly figured out the winning formula to melding the worlds of WWE and comic books.
Both the Ambrose and Rollins narrative arcs will engage WWE fans. Add a number of variant covers and there's plenty to love about the series.
There are ample in-ring storylines to explore in the issues ahead.
BOOM! Studios @boomstudios
.@WWE website has 1st look at Sept's WWE #9 covers, feat. @WWERomanReigns @WWEBrayWyatt @_SgtSlaughter @WWECesaro https://t.co/LwB6Q6Y9vB2017-6-19 20:32:51
Cesaro and Sheamus' feud morphing into a championship-caliber rivalry complete with bar fights aplenty would make for good reading. Daniel Bryan seizing the WWE Championship and outlasting The Authority is a no-brainer. Breezango's journey deserves its own comic book.
Even with three hours of Raw and two hours of SmackDown, post-show interviews and everything else, there's often not enough space to fully tell the stories of WWE's warriors.
The comic books offer bonus material, narrative extensions and artful explorations of characters. These aren't behind-the-curtain peeks at the real performers as shows like Ride Along are, but they are a place for kayfabe to continue, where the fiction is further exaggerated.
WWE can't film a demolition derby as easily as an artist can draw one up, but the creative team needs to sit down with the comic book writers and find ways to infuse some of these ideas.
Backstory, taped inner monologues, vignettes and scenes shot outside the ring all enhance WWE's stories in Boom Studios' comic books. WWE should incorporate some of those into its onscreen product wherever it can.
Moments like Rollins pulling into the arena on a motorcycle or Ambrose venturing into The Wyatt Family Compound shouldn't be limited to the comic book medium. The adaptation needs to start informing the original.