By Dustin Cabeal
I live in this weird comic bubble in which I don’t seek out or read other people’s thoughts on comics for the most part. I never read what anyone is saying about a book I’m reviewing because there’s always a chance that it could slip its way into my review. I don’t know how Sideways is being received, but I can almost guess that it’s a mixed bag.
Sideways is an uncharacteristic comic for DC. The lead character Derek aka Sideways is more in line with a superhero that came from the 90s or early 00’s superhero boom. Having read the second and third issue in succession, I actually forgot that I was reading a DC title. The thing is, it’s wonderful in its attempt at capturing the style of superhero comics that seem so long ago. The story has deep moments, but it’s not all grim and death. There were a lot of creators that contributed to the grim and dark nature that comics became, but there were always bright spots. Spider-man is one of those (until he was eventually forced to drink the Koolaid as well) brighter comics. Readers will see an instant comparison to Spider-Man while reading, but it goes a step further than that. At times it feels like an Image book, other times it feels like Major Bummer, but all the time, it feels like a comic from a pre-internet age.
Which is weird since it has cell phones and shit, but it’s charming in the way that a 90s comic once was. It reminds me a lot of Priest’s Deathstroke in which it felt like an improved version of the 90s formula, so too does Sideways and hey, that’s a great formula to improve, so I’m not complaining in the least bit.
In this issue, we see Derek be a hero without the costume. He talks to the villain because he knows he can’t fight her like he can’t physically do it because he’s so beat up from falling down a building. He ports her away, and she gets confused and runs away. He then pushes his powers in a new direction and opens rifts all over the city so that he can find her location. There we learn that Killspeed is dying and was part of the event in Flash. It’s a great and tragic backstory for either a hero or a villain, and it gives that perfect parallel of every hero was just one wrong choice away from being the bad guy. It’s a scene that instantly speaks to both of their characters.
There’s a great deal of fun to the writing. At one point there’s an editor’s note telling the reader that they couldn’t agree on what a bus hitting the rift would sound like so they’re asking the reader to come up with their own. I would like to submit this sound, which you will likely have heard in a billion fucking trailers, but the minute I read that note that’s what I thought of it. It was fun to step outside of the book for a moment into the real world and insight a conversation even if it was one-sided.
The art continues to be the star. Rocafort is an amazing talent, and there won’t be another artist like him ever. There were a few pacing problems in the second issue, but I didn’t notice anything like that in this issue. There is still a very art first, story second vibe to this series which I’m liking. Comic books don’t make millions of dollars so why do publishers feel that there is one set system and style to make the books and be successful off them? If I were a publisher with corporate backing, I would be trying everything I could think of to entertain and hook readers. I’m oversimplifying the business side of things, but I think Image has shown over and over that if people are hooked on your book, the sales will follow.
At any rate, Rocafort’s artwork is spectacular (pun intended). Doing an entire issue with a character in a hospital gown was bold, funny and kept PG-13 with the inclusion of underwear. The coloring from Daniel Brown is a wonderful match to the pencil work and brings everything together. The coloring has so much vibrancy and layers to it that it again looks and feels different from a typical DC title.
I can’t imagine that everyone is enjoying Sideways the way I am. I’m sure newer comic readers that didn’t grow up during the superhero/comic boom days see this title and experience it differently. Hopefully, people see what a wonderfully creative book this is, not for its story or plot, but for how it’s being created. There are so many old-school elements that have been dusted off and polished that it’s extremely interesting and creative. That alone isn’t a reason to read it though, but the fact that all of those elements come together and produce a superhero comic that’s not dark and gritty and full of death, but instead is fun with a little bit of gore, well that’s the reason to read it. I’m not going to say that this is DC’s Spider-Man, because I think Sideways is far more complicated than a simple copy/paste. It’s a unique story set in the DCU, and I for one will continue on the journey/experiment.