SIDEWAYS #7 / Scripting: Dan DiDio and Kenneth Rocafort / Art: Kenneth Rocafort / Dialogue: Dan DiDio / Color Artists: Dan Brown and Ivan Plascencia / Letterer: Travis Lanham / Released: August 8, 2018 / Publisher: DC Comics
Potential readers can be forgiven for thinking Sideways is one more derivative super hero book. The costume is vaguely Spider-Man-ish. The teenage main character is fast with the quips when fighting. In the hands of its superior creative team, though, Sideways is much more than just the latest super hero in an already crowded field. But don’t take my word for it—just check out Sideways #7.
Derek’s mother is dead. Her body was found in Crime Alley at the end of the previous issue; the unfortunate discovery followed a day when she and Derek had fought and he had ignored her phone calls. Sideways #7 picks up right on the heels of the previous issue’s unfortunate revelation and focuses on Derek’s attempt to work through his grief. When his father won’t let him come down to identify the body with him, Derek rifts into the morgue and talks to his mom’s body. Over the next week, Derek gets it in his head that to avenge his mother’s death he has to keep everyone else at a distance. He makes little attempt to forge a stronger relationship with his father. When he attends school he pushes Ernie away. The abnormal school behavior catches the attention of one of the popular kids who’s periodically bullied Derek over the years. When the bully makes a crack about Derek being adopted, Derek rifts in the water from a waterfall and washes the lunch crowd out to the field.
Sideways #7 sees the return of Kenneth Rocafort after a two issue hiatus, and the product is immediately elevated as a result. Most importantly, after two issues without the unique layouts Rocafort has brought to Sideways, they’re back and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Rocafort’s Sideways seldom takes art to the edge of the page; rather, he fills the gap between panel and edge with colors and designs. Further, those colors and designs often speak to the action and emotion at play on the page. For instance, when Derek looks at his phone for the first time in the issue the background goes from plain white to black and purple with a sort of tearing motif.
The real artistic triumph of Sideways #7, though, comes during the morgue scene. This is also, coincidentally, when Dan DiDio brings to bear top notch writing. The morgue scene is roughly three pages of Derek speaking to his mother’s body. He starts out standing and dry eyed, but over the course of the scene Rocafort adds tears and takes Derek first upright on his knees, then leaning on the slab, then almost collapsed beneath it. All the while he’s holding his mother’s hand. DiDio’s dialogue going along with this art is heartbreaking—a young man’s expression of grief for not being there when his mom wanted him. He has excuses for his behavior but they don’t matter. All he wants at the end is forgiveness from his mom. Derek finishes the scene a penitent confessing his sins and begging absolution from the only place that can’t give it to him.
In many ways Sideways is a run of the mill teenage superhero comic. A lot of the same clichés are at work. The creative team on Sideways, though, transforms it into something special. Colorists Ivan Plascencia and Dan Brown bring Rocafort’s unusual page layouts to life. Letterer Travis Lanham makes Derek’s narration box distinctive, reminiscent of both his costume and the phone he is so often attached to. Rocafort and DiDio, through their scripting, art, and dialogue, take a superhero comic and infuse real drama into every issue. Sometimes it’s family drama as it was in Sideways #6. Sometimes it’s a coming of age story as it was in Sideways #3. And sometimes it’s a young man confronting unimaginable grief. This is a comic book that everyone should check out at least once, and Sideways #7 is a great place to start.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 school waterfalls
Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he’s published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.