Sideways Volume I: Steppin' Out
Written by: Dan Didio and Justin Jordan
Art by: Kenneth Rockafort, Robert Gill, and Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colors by: Daniel Brown and John Rauch
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Genre: Comics / Science-Fiction
For the last year and counting, DC has established several imprints. These imprints have varied in theme, but almost all of them have featured stories set outside of the continuity set by their main line of comics. One exception to this trend was the ‘New Age of Heroes’ imprint. Sideways and the stories in the other six ‘New Age of Heroes’ titles all spin off of the line-wide event, Dark Nights: Metal. Of those six titles, only one has not been cancelled, and unfortunately Sideways was only published for thirteen issues. This is a real shame for Sideways, as it is one of the most fun and original titles from the ‘New Age of Heroes’ imprint. This volume collects the first arc of this short-lived series.
Derek James, the titular Sideways, was caught up in an attack on Gotham City. During the attack, his body was flooded with energy from the Dark Multiverse. He awoke from a coma to find that he had gained the ability to open rifts in the fabric of reality. These rifts allow him to teleport from one place to another. With the help of his best friend Ernestine “Eernie” Edwards, a cosplay enthusiast who made his costume, Derek sets off to use his new powers to become a superhero. He records his exploits and posts the videos on a fictional version of Youtube.
My favorite part about this comic series is how relatable Derek is, both as himself and as Sideways. It’s awesome to see a young hero make actual mistakes. It quickly becomes clear that just because Derek has powers, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to become a superhero. He quickly realizes that being a hero comes with a steep learning curve. Derek’s personal life is also just as chaotic as his life as a fledgling superhero. He fights with his adopted parents while struggling to find a balance between school and being a hero. It may not be the most original concept (more on that in a minute) but the story is full of heart.
The real high point of Sideways though, is the artwork. The majority of the pages have six or more panels, and they are always superimposed over colorful backgrounds. This effect causes the images in each panel to jump off the page, which really compliments the action sequences and teleportations that occur throughout the story. Even with so many panels per page, the story is easy to follow from one panel to the next. The lettering and coloring of the dialogue boxes makes them stand out in a way that they are easy to read but still blend in enough to the scene without distracting. I also really enjoyed seeing a large variation of different dialogue boxes. Narration dialogue boxes look different from character dialogue boxes. There are also many times throughout the story where Derek and Eernie are texting one another. Their conversation is presented in text bubbles placed around whatever is occurring in each scene.
My major issue with Sideways is the same issue I have with the a lot of the titles in the New Age of Heroes line. Almost all of them seem to ape characters from Marvel. Damage was a character similar to the Hulk, who was an African American Spec Ops officer with an eye patch. The Terrifics is basically the Fantastic Four. There’s a stretchy guy, a girl who can become invisible, a super smart guy, and an inhuman character who struggles with his physical appearance. Sideways is reminiscent of Spiderman. Their costumes look very similar, though Sideways has a different color scheme. Plus he’s a wise cracking teenager torn between having a normal life and using his powers to make a difference.
Now, Marvel and DC have been copying each other for decades, so the similarities between Sideways and Spiderman didn’t bother me that much. It is worth noting however that author Dan Didio is a rather prolific comic book writer who probably could have come up with a more original conceit. Plus, on some level, if I wanted to read a comic like Spiderman, I could just read Spiderman. The other side of that coin is that Spiderman isn’t the easiest comic to jump into at the moment. There are several different, interconnected titles, whose stories have all been affected by recent line-wide events. So though it may feel similar to Spiderman, at least Sideways can be read and enjoyed without a vast knowledge of current Marvel continuity.
Sideways Vol. 1 is a fun departure from the narratives common to DC’s main line of superhero stories. The artwork in this comic helps elevate what could otherwise become a derivative superhero story. The storyline may not be the most original, but the plotlines are unique and the characters are relatable. This is a comic that had great potential, and the story arc collected in this volume sets up a compelling origin for a character that will hopefully one day be featured elsewhere in the continuity of DC Comics.