REVIEW: Sideways #10 – “Getting the Band Back Together”

Sideways #10

Sideways #10 / Writer: Dan DiDio / Artist: Kenneth Rocafort / Colors: Dan Brown / Letterer: Dave Sharpe / Publisher: DC Comics / Release Date: November 21, 2018

Sideways #10 cover

Creative teams are key to a comic’s success. Most of the time teams can come and go, leaving an imprint on a title but not stamping it as theirs forever. Then there are the creative teams that are linked to a book—teams without which a comic doesn’t feel right. Sideways is such a series, and Sideways #10 is a perfect example.

Sideways #10 is, as the cover says, an interlude. Derek returns from his adventure with the Seven Soldiers to find his father still in mourning over his mother and ambivalent about their future together—Derek is “like a son” to his father. To process what’s going on, Derek steals away his best friend Ernie and they visit Paris. They talk. They commiserate. Quite surprising to both of them, they end up holding hands. Then terrorists attack Paris and Derek is off to the save the day. The issue ends with the appearance of a new villain.

Derek’s Voice

Dan DiDio writes an emotional story in Sideways #10. Derek deals with his mother’s death, his father’s brush off, and his potential feelings for Ernie. This story is exactly what Sideways needs after the Seven Soldiers adventure—an emotional check-in. DiDio captures Derek’s voice better than other writers who have tried, and his stories lend Kenneth Rocafort many opportunities to shine. The moment that stands out—that DiDio wrote to perfection—is Derek’s father admitting he can’t have the same relationship with Derek that his mother had. This is a heart-wrenching moment as an adopted child is basically told he’s never been a son to his own father.

Sideways #10

For all this praise on DiDio, though, there are failings in this issue, and they principally deal with the antagonists. Derek’s mom’s former boss, Ms. Dominus, is scheming behind the scenes to get her hands on Derek. First off, the name is silly. Second, the villain she enlists—Bolt—is painfully over the top. Also problematic are the bombers in Paris—not so much because they’re poorly written but because they’re extraneous. They provide action to an issue that has none, postpones Derek and Ernie from talking about the hand holding, and visualizes Derek’s decision to be a hero. DiDio doesn’t make this threat convincing, though, and it feels exactly as unnecessary as it is.

DiDio’s script offers a lot of dialogue and narration, and Dave Sharpe has the job of lettering all that dialogue and script. For the most part the issue is fairly standard with plain white word bubbles. The exception to this ordinary presentation is Derek’s narration, which is presented in a slightly stylized box in the colors of Sideway’s costume. Sharpe’s real success is his ability to organize lots of dialogue into bubbles that don’t obscure the character’s faces or any central action. In an issue with long discussions, this is key.

Borders and Layouts

I’ve raved in the past about Kenneth Rocafort’s work on Sideways, and his return on Sideways #10 excited me. What do I like about Rocafort? His shading on characters adds depth and emotion—especially on Derek. Close ups of faces and eyes are rich with feeling. His page borders and layouts are dynamic. My favorite moment in the issue was after Derek’s father said Derek was “like a son to him,” to which Derek, as his father walks away, answers back, “I thought I was your son.” The panel is perfectly drawn. The point of view is low to the ground, catching Derek’s father’s shoes as he walks away. In the distance Derek appears small, slight, and vulnerable. The one place Rocafort lets me down is in the design of the mercenary Bolt. Take the Punisher, cross him with Batman, and add a lack of fashion sense. It’s probably the weakest villain design yet in Sideways.

Sideways #10

Adding color to Rocafort’s art is Dan Brown, an expert at shading. Rocafort uses a lot of lines to define the appearance of his characters. Brown uses these lines as a guide to adjust his colors. An example is Ernie’s yellow shirt throughout the issue. Brown uses Rocafort’s lines as a guide to where her shirt needs to appear darker or lighter based on how it sits on her. This is smart work that adds layers beyond the simple shading of the artist.

Final Thoughts

Have I gushed enough? Sideways is a book that requires this group, especially Rocafort and DiDio. With this reunion, Sideways #10 is overflowing with emotion in both writing and art. There are missteps, but the positive vastly overshadows the negative. So long as this team continues to turn in rich, emotional issues, I’ll be there.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Big Belly burgers

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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.

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