Fightful's Comic Book Pull List - WWE #16

Welcome to issue #2 of Fightful's Comic Book Pull List. This week we will be talking about WWE #16 from BOOM! Studios.

Written by: Dennis Hopeless

Ace Austin vs. Chris Bey, Tag Team Bout Set For 3/9 IMPACT Wrestling

Illustrated by: Serg Acuña & Kendall Goode (Pages 1-7)

Coloured by: Doug Garbark

Lettered by: Jim Campbell

After the disappointment of 2018's WrestleMania Special, I was pessimistic that the ongoing WWE series would be any better. Dan Mora's homage to the iconic J. Howard Miller "We Can Do It!" wartime poster is visually striking and fits thematically, but did not boost my excitement.

The book begins with Bayley at the NXT Performance Center and, through internal monologue, chronicles her desire and struggle to make it to the main roster. She is a trainer, a role model, a title holder, and a big-time money maker (they can't keep her shirts on the shelf), but Triple H stands in the way. The only thing he likes about Bayley being champion is that someday somebody else is going to take it from her. She's a "brass ring with a ponytail." Enter Nia Jax, a challenger that both Triple H and William Regal feel confident can dethrone the champion.

I thought the first few pages were rather interesting in that they presented Bayley as a real person with insecurities and dreams. It's the most I've ever connected with the character. There is a depth to her that is much more interesting than her "Hugger" persona. She's fighting every night and exhausting herself to reach a goal that she was told to be unattainable. That said, I wish Dennis Hopeless would have explained why her ceiling is being NXT Women's Champion. The matches are presented as unscripted fights. If that's the case then winning should be the only thing that matters. Also, it made me question why she would help train future superstars who could potentially usurp and take that coveted main roster spot away from her.

Becky Lynch shows up to inform Bayley that she has heard rumblings of a brand split and that rosters are expanding. This provides Bayley with the motivation to keep fighting but also increases her anxiety of slipping up and missing her chance. Aside from the atrocious Valley-girl dialogue, I enjoyed this section of the story because it further humanized Bayley as this wrestling-obsessed slob who feels trapped in a black hole of nothingness.

The Women's Championship match versus Nia came next and was shockingly engaging. Experiencing the match through Bayley's thoughts was something new and I particularly liked her noticing when to capitalize on a Nia error. The story then abruptly time jumps a few months to the Superstar Draft and informs us that Bayley has since gotten injured and relinquished the belt, the very thing she feared most. I wish that period of time was included in the story, even if only for a few panels because so much of the issue focuses on her psyche and that feels too monumental to skip over. Nevertheless, we are with Bayley, who is inexplicably taking an ice bath, in full gear, in her living room, while watching the selections be made. With each subsequent pick, we see the growing anger until she finally snaps with the announcement of Carmella being drafted to SmackDown, a woman we see her beat earlier. The story ends with a dejected Bayley sinking into her bath. To Be Continued ... 

The final few pages are allocated to Though She Be But Little, She Is FIERCE (Part Three), a two-page story about Asuka getting restless and feeling trapped in the small tank that is NXT. The best part of this quick-hit was the doctor describing her as a "Supernatural Rainbow Space Alien Demon Queen." I actually laughed. I do, however, wish it hadn't been included. Instantaneously, it rips you away from the sombre final panel of Bayley and lessened its lasting impression.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this book. It's not mind-blowing, but it feels like a good jumping on point. The dialogue isn't terribly sharp and the time jump bugged me, but I thought the characterization of Bayley was fascinating. The artwork by Serg Acuña and Kendall Goode is solid and much more human looking than the previously mentioned WrestleMania Special. The noses and jaws look a tad wonky, but that's a nitpick. This seems to be a loose re-telling of the Women's Evolution, which is fine, but upsetting in that we know how it ends. The comic medium should be a forum to explore new stories. Again though, I thought they did more with Bayley in this one issue than WWE has done since she actually joined the main roster. I look forward to seeing how they follow it up!

Rating: Worth A Read (3/5)

Remaining Pull-List Titles for 04/18/18:

- Action Comics #1000 (DC)

- The Amazing Spider-Man #799 (Marvel)

- Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

- Mister Miracle #8 (DC)

- Batman #45 (DC)

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