With WWE returning to network television and a rival promotion AEW launching its own programming on cable, professional wrestling seems more ubiquitous than ever. Ahead of WWE Smackdown's premiere on its new network, Fox, the leading professional wrestling organization has reteamed with BOOM! Studios to release a special comic book issue, WWE Smackdown #1, written by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Kendall Goode and Serg Acuña. Uneven and stilted at times, the issue as a whole maintains its clear love for the legacy of the WWE and Smackdown's history while immersive itself the sometimes strange world of the WWE's extensive mythos.
The Smackdown special is told largely by Becky "The Man" Lynch's perspective as she prepares to become part of the all-new Friday Night WWE Smackdown Live! on Fox. As Becky reaches the venue and ventures backstage, she crosses paths with all sorts of professional wrestling icons associated with Smackdown and is reminded of the history and rivalry of the various wrestlers as she is poised led the WWE's continuing legacy into the future. Running parallel to Becky's backstage arrival is an amusing tangent where the popular wrestling trio The New Day are running late for the program as they are caught in the middle of Los Angeles's infamous traffic.
It's clear from the start that Kevin Panetta has a clear, deep love for the WWE, using Becky as a P.O.V. character into the wider world of the organization's storied history, colorful personalities and epic feuds. There are a lot of characters introduced over the course of the single issue, with longtime wrestling fans encouraged to stay on the lookout for Easter eggs and nods to the legacy of the long-running mythos. And despite the behind-the-scenes, day-in-the-life premise of the special issue, Panetta never has any of the figures within the story break character; while they appreciate what the WWE means to them, they are still presented as the larger-than-life characters they portray within the ongoing, televised storyline.
However, while Panetta has a strong grasp on Becky's voice as she navigates the expansive cast backstage, some of the other WWE personalities are handled a bit more awkwardly. A fair bit of this is intentionally played for laughs given Panetta's approach not to break character; one that had existed in previous BOOM! Studios WWE titles. But with such a large cast chiming in as Becky ventures deeper down the professional wrestling rabbit hole, there are certainly characters that come off as caricatures of themselves over the course of the story.
Similarly, the artwork, by Kendall Goode and Serg Acuña, with Acuña also joining Danny Sanchez Chaves on colors, can be uneven at times. There are moments where the art is breathtaking, usually when a page's focus is squarely on Becky Lynch or in the wider crowd shots packed from each end of a given panel with various WWE superstars. However, usually on the breakdowns, some the positioning and posturing is stiff and the facial work stilted, with room for slight noticeable improvement.
As a celebration of the WWE, Panetta and Goode's Smackdown special mostly succeeds. With an appealing, swaggering protagonist in Becky Lynch, confidence permeates throughout the issue as Becky takes a quick walk down Smackdown's memory lane. However, with so much history and such a large cast to accommodate while staying in character, the issue could do with a little extra polish to even at the pacing and some of the artwork to make this issue a worthy knockout.