December 26, 2013

Review -- WWE: SUPERSTARS #1

WWE: Superstars #1

(Mick Foley (with Shane Riches) / Alitha Martinez / Jayjay Jackson / Tom Orzechowski / Super Genius/Papercutz)
5 stars
"You can't see me." Thus begins legendary professional wrestler Mick Foley's foray into the world of comic books. This is one of the (many) catch phrases said (often) by one of WWE's most popular (and most hated) superstars, John Cena, and by Foley using these words in the context of the fictional world of Titan City, WWE: Superstars #1 opens up meta-worlds within meta-worlds within worlds (within worlds).
See, the "real" world of professional wrestling is already filled with fictional characters – huge, over-the-top personalities, the more outlandish the better.  While their athletic ability is certainly part of their appeal, what truly distinguishes a WWE Superstar is his or her ability to convey character – wild, bombastic, larger-than-life. You can be good in the ring, but you sell the most t-shirts if you're good on "the mic".
The idea of an artist taking these hyperbolic and exaggerated creations of others, and then jamming them into a, by comparison, more mundane crime noir story, while still keeping true to both "realities," is either the most self-referential thing ever attempted, or the recipe for a great disaster.

WWE: Superstars #1 is not a good comic. The writing is stilted, the art devolves into sludge page by page, the coloring is inexcusable at times, and even the lettering wonks-out towards the end. As representational of the medium it presents itself in, it fails on almost every level. What it is, though, is a daring work of ART. It's commentary on what is already commentary and skews reality in such a manner that almost rips open an already wide hole.
This thing is relatively impossible to read without having prior knowledge of who the characters are.  Without an understanding of the Sophocleian narrative each one of these characters already provides with just their very presence in the "actual" ring in WWE, the average reader will miss the layers of creation that Foley has provided, and by doing so, miss what IS WWE: Superstars #1.
The artistic audacity of this book boggles the mind. Taking characters like the aforementioned John Cena or Randy Orton or CM Punk or Daniel Bryan or Zeb Colter and putting them in a Sin City-like tale of political intrigue and classic Dashiell Hammet crime drama while still giving them ample opportunity to use their signature finishing moves in wrestling rings while wearing wrestling speedos (or jorts) and sprinkling their dialogue with signature catch-phrases pushes boundaries that heretofore nobody even knew existed. And if that sentence seems bogged down in subordinate clauses, I'm sorry, it's only because that's what you have to do when you are describing this book.
Like I said, this is a truly shitty comic book, but that's ultimately NOT the purpose of WWE: Superstars #1. This book is the next step in artistic endeavor. As we cut and paste our way into a new dawn of consciousness created from the vision ensconced in that frightened but ironic eye we've turned away from the night of our present reality, the one too ugly to stare at head-on any more, it is books like this  that stand as a blueprint for what the new day brings.
Whatever it is, it knows how to choke-slam, five-knuckle shuffle, and use the RKO.

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