Learning The Ropes: In my experience, the Venn diagram of comic book and wrestling fans is practically a circle. (Certainly explains AiPT!’s existence/success.) So it’s clearly best for business as BOOM! Studios enters the fray with WWE: Attitude Era #1. This four-story single shot chronicles the Attitude Era, the span of programming in the mid to late 90s often considered the greatest in the company’s 40-plus-year history. With art and stories from Aaron Gillespie (Green Lanterns), Kendall Goode (The Pride), and Ryan Ferrier (Rocko’s Modern Life), it’s like reliving the best moments in modern wrestling without dropping money on the WWE Network.
Tonight’s Card: The four stories in question are:
- “Funeral For a Rattlesnake”: In which “Stone Cold” Steve Austin reflects on a long, harrowing career before smashing a monster truck into The Rock’s mock funeral procession.
- “The Three Faces of Foley”: Mick Foley’s alter egos – Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love – share memories and engage in fisticuffs. Yes, Mr. Socko appears.
- “Lita Vs. Trish”: Here, we get to relive one of the most epic rivalries of the Attitude Era, and a powerful precursor to the modern women’s (r)evolution.
- “Behind Enemy Lines”: In one of the most iconic moments of the era, DX once invaded WCW. This tale, however, provides some interesting fictional color involving the Outsiders/nWo.
Laying the Smackdown: As a rule, wrestling works because it’s over-the-top in almost every conceivable aspect. From the bright “costumes” and pyrotechnics to the stratified roles of heel and face, it’s this sense of exaggeration and spectacle that appeals to people in a method akin to action movies and a child’s pretend play. Each story builds on that hyperactive fiction, with plenty of cheesy dialogue, iconic shots/imagery, overwrought violence, juvenile humor, and larger-than life heroes. The creators have taken the liberties afforded by the format and nostalgia-centric mission statement and amped everything to 11. That’s part of what made the Attitude Era so great: a complete abandonment of story limits and expectations while thoroughly embracing the pure insanity and cartoonish nature of wrestling. That, and the Hardcore Title.
Champions and Jabronis: Despite their respective brevity and commitment to grandiosity, not all of the stories are equal in the (excellence of) execution. “Three Faces of Foley” works because it fits with the Mick Foley character – which is to say, silly and weird in all of the best places, reflective of his unique contributions to wrestling storytelling. Meanwhile, “Funeral For a Rattlesnake” provides too much depth and a thoughtful nature to the “Stone Cold” mythos – a clear departure from his “stomp and skedaddle” M.O. “Lita Vs. Trish” works because, while there are shifts in the narrative, the story ultimately highlights what made the pair’s feud so compelling and entertaining (namely, the pacing and sheer intensity). Unlike the “Behind Enemy Lines” story, which tries to play around with history far too leniently, impacting the sheer entertainment factor with such a clear cut case of nerdy wish fulfillment. It’s like dreaming that you could have ice cream for dinner, but forgetting about the resulting headaches.
It Doesn’t Matter!: On the one hand, the collection does manage to build upon one of the most convoluted and impactful eras in WWE’s history. However, there’s one thing the book can’t accomplish, and that’s a wink of the eye from the respective characters. That recognition by the talent that they know what’s going on, and are fully aware of how weird or dumb their efforts might appear. That’s important – for the exaggerated tendencies to really work, you sometimes need that fourth-wall-breaking functionality. That’s sadly missing from comic books (at least in a way that’s as deliberate and nuanced in actual wrestling). That’s not the fault of the creators – instead, it’s something that should help inform your individual reading. On the upside, Austin’s stunners look absolutely dynamite throughout the book.
The 3-Second Tan: If you’re a true blue wrestling fan, it seems obvious that you’d pick this up. If you’re not, however, you may still consider having a go. It’s full of silliness and overly serious drama, like a compact episode of Passions. It might not get you into actual wrestling, but it may help you understand the larger cultural and artistic impact of ‘rasslin’.
And that’s the bottom line. Have a nice day!