In Review: Sidekick #1
The covers: Six possibilities for you to purchase on this initial issue. Cover A is by interior artist Tom Mandrake and interior colorist HiFi. This is a classically drawn image of a hero, the Red Cowl, and his sidekick, Flyboy, receiving the adulation of an adoring public during a parade. This image could be from any book from the 1960′s to the 1980′s, with one small exception–a sniper’s scope colored blood red is trained on Red Cowl’s head. This is going to go bad quickly. This is a nice way to make a glorious moment wonderfully wrong. Admit it: you can almost hear the firing of a gun. Cover B is by Charlie Allard with Flyboy sitting with his back to a wall that a giant smiling cowl done in graffiti. That’s a lot of emotion coming out of one small character. Cover C is the A cover minus HiFi’s work. Still looks good! Cover D is by Whilce Portacio and Michael Atiyeh with a somber, overwhelmed Flyboy at the San Diego Supercon. I can’t discuss what’s going on here without ruining a page late in the book, but you get the idea that something’s not right. Ryan Sook does a great Cover E with Flyboy holding the Cowl’s namesake while floating before his slain partner’s portrait. This image took an entirely different meaning when I finished the issue. Cover F is the B cover sans color. Nice. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A-, D B+, E A+, and F A-
The story: Brace yourself, ’cause you haven’t read anything like this in a long time. J. Michael Straczynski’s tale opens with young Flyboy grabbing the Sonic Master’s bomb and going skyward, throwing it as far as he can. The weapon detonates and our heroes and the city are safe. At a press conference, Red Cowl proclaims, “Let no one mistake this for my victory. It was Flyboy who saved the day this time. So from this day forward let no call him just a sidekick ever again.” Those last two words are the damning title of this issue’s chapter, shown painfully as Barry, aka Flyboy, wakes from his reminiscing in a sleazy hotel, cigarette in mouth, various empty bottles next to his bed, and roaches on the wall. The remaining pages detail the tragic, violent end of the Cowl and how Barry got to such a low point. This is like watching Robin or Captain Marvel, Jr. fall apart before your eyes. It’s a train wreck where you can’t look away because you’re waiting for the moment where redemption can occur. Page 5 quickly shows us how low Flyboy’s gone. Page 5 and 6 show that he wants to be more than he is, which leads smoothly into a three paged flashback of the Cowl’s death. Then things take a very interesting turn on Page 12, while 13 begins the depression. 15 was absolutely brutal to read because this is such a modern vehicle for change, and the results are happening everyday to people just like Barry. 16 and 17 are even sadder and 18 a gut kick after I’ve recently attended this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. I did expect the event shown on Pages 19 and 10, and I know that’s not the last we’ll see of either character. But 22–Okay, Mr. Straczynski. Ya’ got me! Didn’t see it coming, and I’m so glad that it did! Overall grade: A
The art: Fresh from Dark Horse’s excellent To Hell You Ride, artist Tom Mandrake is now creating a new version of Hell–a personal downward spiral. I could pull any number of comics out of my own collection to match the tone and posturing that Mandrake has created for the first four pages. This is the perfect lure to hook a reader, because the next page will contradict all we’ve seen, while Page 5 is literally set in a sleazy alley. Page 6 captures the beauty of what a hero could be, but it soon becomes tarnished by a horrific memory and graphic death. Pages 16 and 17 are perfectly drawn because if you’re looking at the art you can anticipate where the questions will be heading. Pages 19 and 20 are beautiful and tragic, though that look away on Page 20 promises more. I’d discuss the final panel in detail, but spoilers. Let’s just say, game changer. Overall grade: A
The colors: HiFi has wisely made young Flyboy’s adventure bold and bright for those pristine memories. These bright colors reappear on Page 7 making him almost god-like. But as the story progresses to show his deterioration, the colors darken as well, climaxing in anger and an entrance on 21. Perfect in every way. Overall grade: A
The letters: Dialogue, narration, yells, and two gunshots presented perfectly by Troy Peteri. I wanted the exclamation in panel four on Page 10 to be in a larger balloon because it’s lost in the black background and diminishes the power behind that utterance. Still, a good job. Overall grade: A
The final line: Thematically similar to 1990′s Brat Pack, which focused on four sidekicks, Sidekick shows the disaster that happens when a child stands alone in the spotlight. The results shouldn’t be this shocking, but if you can accept the reality of the situation, why would they be any different? This is a reality shot to the head of super powers solo too soon. Overall grade: A
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years, and then moved to a high school to teach 9th graders English. After one year of that, he was moved to teach 10th grade, which means he did a really good job or a really poor job last year. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.