A WWE comic is like an oxidized box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s probably not going to be good. Now, WWE Superstars, by the creative team of co-writers Mick Foley and Shane Riches and artists Alitha Martinez and Puste, is easily one of the better comics to exist under the WWE banner, but that’s really not saying much.
The first four issues, now released in a trade titled Money in the Bank, is at least original. While issue #5 has moved on to tell stories about wrestlers in a world about wrestling, Money in the Bank takes place in an alternate reality. An alternate WWE Universe, if you will. World Wrestling Elseworlds. In this world, the Superstars and Divas aren’t competitors in the squared circle, but are actually facets of Titan City, a crime noir metropolis filled with corruption in the form of familiar faces.
John Cena is an honest cop who got arrested for a crime he didn’t commit – the mysterious disappearance of a briefcase filled with millions of dollars. He’s released and searches for the truth, only to get tangled into a web of story that involves CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as anarchists trying to take back the city, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio as shady candidates for the city’s district attorney, Paul Heyman as a crime boss, hard-boiled detective Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio as a masked vigilante, the Shield as dirty cops, Christian as the captain of the police force, the Wyatt Family as…well, they’re pretty much the same as they are in WWE.
It’s a clever premise and there are a lot of clever lines. John Cena mentions how due to his conviction, half the city loves him and half the city hates him. Randy Orton opens up the Apex Community Center. CM Punk talks about how Kane could be your friend, enemy, or even your dentist. That’s cute. Even the climax has the “money in the bank” briefcase being fought over on a ladder. There’s a lot of fun stuff mixed in there and a handful of great references.
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly one-note and it really runs out of gas by the third issue. Once it begins, the positioning of the wrestlers as noir characters is fun, but by the time they’re tossing Brodus Clay in as a bouncer for the hell of it, the joke has run its course. Once you get past the gimmick, it just isn’t compelling. There’s nothing about the story that really grabs you and pulls you in.
Part of that has to do with the overwhelming cast. WWE Superstars includes John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio, Daniel Bryan, the Miz, Undertaker, Kane, CM Punk, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erik Rowan, Zeb Colter, Cesaro, Jack Swagger, Camacho, Hunico, Christian, AJ Lee, Ryback, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Mark Henry, Rey Mysterio, Jerry Lawler, Hornswoggle, Great Khali, Sheamus, Goldust, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Brodus Clay. That’s 40 names right there in four issues. Now, granted, some of them are incredibly minor (Sheamus is shown once and gets a back story description via narration), but that’s way too much to spread around and still be coherent.
In other words, the story is pretty incoherent.
The action is pretty laughable because 90% of the fighting is done via wrestling moves like it’s a normal thing people would do in these situations. Because of the bloated cast, Martinez has to cut to the chase and things are over before they begin. For instance, Ryback randomly shows up to kick Dolph Ziggler into a wall. In the very next panel, Ziggler is giving him the Zigzag through a nearby table. No transition. Wrestling moves simply just happen.
Then again, this is pretty amazing at times because where else can you see someone get Perfect Plexed into the street because the mob is trying to send a message?
Martinez’s art varies. For the most part, her close-ups are great and look strikingly like the wrestlers without coming off as traced. This is especially apparent in the first issue where she’s presumably had enough time to get things done. By the second issue, the art feels a little rushed and the detail begins to trail off more and more. By the last issue, there’s four pages that are handed to fill-in artist Puste, who also acts as the main artist as of issue #5.
I can’t say I’m a fan of Puste’s art. It’s lifeless, awkward, has some serious perspective problems, and sticks out like a sore thumb in the fourth issue.
Apparently there’s a rave going on in the background.
Look at that. Undertaker put on a hoodie in-between panels. How does that happen? I mean, Martinez has a similar problem where Kane went from wearing his tights with no mask to wearing his tights with his mask (not really sure how that fits into the crime noir narrative), but there was an entire issue in-between that change. It wasn’t a side-by-side panel transition where you should really notice something’s amiss halfway into your sketch.
Once Martinez comes back after Puste’s sequence, it feels like whiplash and I feel bad for ever having anything bad to say about Martinez’s work.
Then again, I have to imagine a lot of the art issues come from sudden script changes. I know that that plagued the production of this comic’s predecessor WWE Heroes, so I figure that there had to be some random changes here and there.
If you aren’t a wrestling fan, there is absolutely zero reason to even read this trade. If you’re a wrestling fan and you enjoy completely weird crap, then by all means go for it. If anything, it’s kind of crazy to read an official WWE release where CM Punk is front and center months after he ran off. Even in the current storyline, he’s still a major character. I guess his contract is still good, so they might as well make as much money on his name as they can. That, and I’m not even sure Vince McMahon knows this comic even exists.