Publisher: DC Comics
Storytellers: Kenneth Rocafort, Dan DiDio
Dialogue: Dan DiDio, Justin Jordan
Colours: Daniel Brown
Letters: Carlos M Mangual
Release Date: 14th February 2018
I really wanted to like this.
I really admire what DC are doing, adding a raft of new characters to the roster, giving creators a whole lot of creative freedom to tell new and exciting stories within their substantial sandbox.
The problem, however, is three-fold: (1) there’s already a lot of characters, minor or otherwise, that could stand a lot more development (and to be fair, some of the New Age of Heroes titles are doing just that); (2) it’s tethered to Dark Knights Metal, which has its own baggage; and (3) it’s just not very good.
To take these in turn, generally and specifically to Sideways:
(1) A lot of minor character titles have just been cancelled (Blue Beetle, Superwoman), or are still nascent (The Signal). Whilst I understand that DC want to be seen to be not solely dependent on the big 5 (Bats, Supes, Flash, WW, GLs) and make some bold creative decisions, I’m not sure these are wise. There are better ways, frankly.
DAMAGE for example, was a really messy first issue, but throwing him into the pages of Suicide Squad (as has been done this week in issue #38), was frankly brilliant – how WOULD Harley really manage to do anything to a knock-off Hulk? I’m not completely against these new characters: I rather enjoyed The Silencer, drawing on everything from True Lies to Lady Killer, even if the whole “Talia let her leave Leviathan” premise seems a bit off. I’m no fan of Booster Gold, but I’ve grown to really rather like the Booster Shot storyline in Action Comics. Justice League of America is hit and miss, but at least Orlando’s doing interesting stuff with DC’s roster (whislt gleefully driving Alan Moore into a premature grave).
In Sideways we have a teleporting teenager. Ok. It’s not a power we see much the DCU, something more associated with villains, and so he’s almost aggressively chirpy (and irritating, in a naïve and irresponsible way). He feels like the most Marvel comic character I’ve seen from DC – again not necessarily a bad thing, because the DCU doesn’t have to be all grimdark, all the time – but he is written clumsily as an Instagramming Snapchatting Pinterest figure, which has already been done better in Batgirl of Burnside and Dan Abnett’s take on Beast Boy. With a supporting cast of stern-but-fair adoptive parents (ooh, tragic backstory macguffin) and best friend who is a girl tech genius (of course) and nerdy twin of school queen bee (because tropes), it feels like a bucket of script ideas has been thrown at a page.
(2) I’m quite enjoying Dark Knights Metal, it’s fun. But I’m not as invested in it as I am the whole Oz/Doomsday Clock/Rebirth storyline, which feels like a more fundamental shift in the DCU whilst still introducing new/old characters effectively (eg. Connor Kent or Marionette & Mime). Tying new characters to it is further complicated by the fact that it may have “finished” in continuity but hasn’t finished its actual run.
(3) The plot, such as it is, deals with our “hero” ignoring mental warnings that BAD STUFF WILL HAPPEN if he continues to use his powers, so he of course ignores them.
Bad stuff happens.
It’s just dull.
The character design feels like a poor Spider-Man tribute, in an unsurprising rendition of New York and generic high school. Yet there is some cracking art, I should say, homaging Frank Quietly’s legendary We3 double-page teleportation amongst other things, along with some wry nods to Cable and Kitty Pryde along the way (or maybe I’m reading too much into it).
This is where the comic is at its best, acknowledging the debt to the conventions whilst reimagining it. Interestingly, there’s no real visual referencing of Shade, the villainous DC shadow teleporter, which again fits the premise. It’s as if the artist has understood what the writer’s proposed, and then the ideas have fallen apart on the page. Except this contrivance of “Storytellers” and “Dialogue”, whilst acknowledging the interdependence of the writing team, reinforces the Comic-by-Committee feel of Sideways.
I wanted to like this comic. Read it, tell me I’m wrong. It’s not a disaster, it’s just a disappointment.
[Click to Enlarge]