Summerslam CoverWWE SummerSlam 2017 Special (Boom Studios)

Words & Pictures: Various Artists

For nearly 30 years WWE’s SummerSlam has been pro-wrestling’s biggest party of the summer, second only to Wrestlemania for landmark events on the sports entertainment calendar.

It began at Madison Square Guardian in 1988 with Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage, collectively known as the Mega Powers, going to toe to toe in the 20×20 squared circle against the vile and villainous Mega Bucks made up of Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant.

Now, on the eve of the 2017 installment of the summer sports entertainment spectacular, BOOM! Studios has released the 40 page special celebrating the body slams and beat downs of three decades of SummerSlam.

This special follows a similar approach to the ongoing WWE series from BOOM! working around the confrontations, contests and continuity of the WWE’s weekly television programs. Stories fill the gaps in the struggles for dominance and championship glory between heroic faces like Dean Ambrose and Finn Balor and dastardly, devious heels like Triple H and Bray Wyatt.

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The opening story “I wined and Dined with Kings and Queens” by Box Brown, Daniel Bayliss and Jim Campbell takes place in the minutes leading up to the 1990 contest between working class every man Dusty Rhodes and the arrogant, self-proclaimed King of the WWE Macho King Randy Savage. Brown, who is no stranger to the world of wrestling comics with his graphic novel biography of Andre the Giant, accurately captures the voices of the 2 antagonists with the story rendered in early 90s hypercolour glory by Bayless with Campbell providing pencils.

The story shifts to a more macabre tone with grizzled gladiator Mick “Mankind” Foley sharing a conspiratorial conversation with an unseen companion as he prepares himself for his bloody boileroom brawl against the Undertaker at the 1996 edition of the event.

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Writer Ryan Ferrier carefully structures a story which weaves together Mankind’s narration to no one with a series of flashbacks helping catch the reader up on the wars waged between Mankind and the Undertaker in and outside the squared circle. Clay McCormarck’s loose inky art and Dee Cunnife’s washed out colours and deep inky shadows add a mood and texture which is sharp contrast to the opening story in this anthology.

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After a brief interlude for the next installment in the New Day’s cosmic odyssey writer / artist Derek Fridolfs brings us a comedic cartoon caper featuring super heavy weights the Natural Disasters and the perennial losers from New Zealand, the bumbling Bushwhackers.

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Featuring cameos by the Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart, the Honky Tonk Man and the Nasty Boys (Knobbs and Saggs) the lighthearted comedy of this story takes me back to being in my early teens at the height of WWE’s early 90s New Generation era.

The anthology rounds out with a prelude to the Universal Championship showdown between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins at last year’s SummerSlam.  This story, which attempts to build on the supernatural suspense created by Balor’s Demon King person is for my money the least successful of the 4 flashbacks in this book.  The creative team of writer Aaron Gillespie, artist Selina Espiritu, colourist Jeremy Lawson and letter Jame Campbell pack a lot in to the 6 pages of this story which means there is little time for the suspense to build as the story grows.

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Although the appeal will be limited for non-wrestling fans there is a lot to like in this fun, enjoyable and clever anthology which creates entertaining moments around the storied sagas and titanic struggles between the men and women of World Wrestling Entertainment.  I have had one eye on the BOOM! Series since it launched earlier this year but this is the first issue I’ve actually read.  I have to say that this will definitely encourage me to track down the collection of the first 6 issues.

WWE SummerSlam 2017 will be beamed to the world from Brooklyn New York on Sunday August 20th.  You can watch the show on the WWE Network and also grab a copy of this oversized Summer special at Comixology or your friendly neighborhood comic book store.