AJ Styles has regained the WWE Title, only to immediately be thrown into his biggest challenge yet: facing Universal Champion Brock Lesnar in a Champ vs. Champ Survivor Series match!
WWE #23 opens up with a flashback sequence from AJ Styles’ kayfabe childhood. A kid easily three times his size is pounding little AJ into the dirt, but the plucky underdog keeps getting up, and even gets a few licks in. Flash forward to the champion vs. champion exhibition match at WWE Survivor Series 2017, where The Phenomenal One finds himself across the ring from The Beast Incarnate.
This is a little bit of a weird one for me. Dennis Hopeless always does an excellent job fleshing out the WWE storylines we’ve already seen on WWE cable, network, and pay-per-view programming. True to form, he takes the feud between AJ and Brock and adds depth, pulling back the curtain on some of the backstage workings and relationships between talent and brass.
The problem I have here actually isn’t even Hopeless’ fault. For some reason, the WWE is pretty obsessed right now with putting former MMA stars over. Lesnar, Rousey, Baszler, Lashley… Well, maybe not Lashley, but when a cage fighter comes to WWE, they’re generally treated as untouchable monsters. It’s supposed to lend credibility to the product. I don’t see it, but this is the state of WWE right now, and since we’re exploring a fairly recent storyline, there it is.
Kendall Goode is filling in for Serg Acuna on this chapter. Goode has a slightly more caricatured style, but it works for the larger-than-life spectacle that is sports entertainment. Likenesses are pretty good, and even when they miss, there’s plenty of context. Short bearded fellow stood sideways next to AJ, obliquely viewing a television monitor backstage, has to be Daniel Bryan.
This was a part of AJ’s WWE story that had to be told in order to bring us up the renewed feud with Shinsuke Nakamura in the next issue. Not my favorite installment, but it moves the timeline forward.
WWE #23, BOOM! Studios, released on 05 December 2018. Written by Dennis Hopeless, illustrated by Kendall Goode, color by Doug Garbark, letters by Jim Campbell. Backup story “Eyes on the Prize” written by Bill Hanstock, with art by Kendall Goode and letters by Jim Campbell. Cover by Marco D’Alfonso, AJ Styles action figure variant cover by Adam Riches, RAW 25th anniversary connecting variant cover by Brent Schoonover with color by Nick Filardi, The Bar variant cover by Will Sliney.