Now that AJ Styles has officially joined the WWE Universe, it’s time to face his greatest challenge yet—the man known as John Cena!
There’s an odd dynamic that happens when a well-known, accomplished performer on the independent wrestling scene arrives in the WWE. What many see as a “big break” often ends up being awkward and can bring a screeching halt to any momentum they carried into the move. It’s almost like they need to prove their worth all over again, regardless how many years they’ve been consistently selling out shows around the world.
WWE #22 continues the story of AJ Styles’ transition from basically being able to write his own ticket in any organization between here and Japan to toeing the WWE line. Dennis Hopeless fills in the TV storyline gaps nicely, fleshing The Club into a more dimensional team than we ever saw on WWE programming. In Hopeless’ version of events, AJ was floundering a bit behind the scenes and called his boys in to help shoulder the weight.
Serg Acuna nails the likenesses and action, as usual. One of my favorite sequences in this chapter involves a group of wrestlers in the back, stood near a television monitor, not actually looking AT the monitor, just stood near it, at an angle that wouldn’t actually allow viewing the events on screen. This is a scene that has become all too familiar to WWE viewers. It’s a device that’s kind of necessary on the “live” shows to establish timelines and advance multiple facets of a storyline that are supposedly happening simultaneously. It’s an odd piece of kayfabe that we accept. It’s absolute nonsense, but it would feel so bizarrely forced if Acuna corrected the angles for realism. Well played, sir.
This WWE ongoing is one of the workhorses in my pull list that never disappoints. Hopeless displays a rare understanding of the relationships and interactions between professional wrestlers, bookers, management, and fans. Acuna takes everything Hopeless crams into the script and brings it to life with ridiculously authentic visuals.
WWE #22, BOOM! Studios, released 07 November 2018. Written by Dennis Hopeless, illustrated by Serg Acuna, color by Doug Garbark, letters by Jim Campbell. Backup story Tales of the Swiss Cyborg written by Julian W. May, illustrated by Dozerdraws, color by Jeremy Lawson. Cover by Marco D’Alfonso, Yokozuna action figure variant by Adam Riches, RAW 25th anniversary connecting variant cover by Brent Schoonover, Iron Sheik variant cover by Rahzzah.