DC’s fledgling young hero Sideways leads a revolt against purported “benevolent” dictator Perrus. The uprising takes a turn leading to new discovery. If being stuck in a dark realm of the Multiverse isn’t enough, Derek James is missing out on his own mother’s funeral — a funeral fraught with tension and mystery.
If nothing else, Sideways #9 is one more building block in the story of Sideways’ formative years, both personally and heroically. The writing shines in its ability to continue shaping its characters and lay breadcrumbs for what is on the horizon. Dan DiDio continues to flesh out Derek James into a three-dimensional character with nuances to his personality. On the one hand, we have the angsty teen lashing out at the world over his mother’s loss; on the other we have a selfless hero sacrificing himself for creatures from another universe he’s only just met.
The issue juggles several narratives throughout. Derek’s mother’s funeral manages to lay the foundation for several plots that are growing in both intrigue and import. The authorities are growing ever more suspect of Derek, and his absence from the funeral fuels their suspicion. Derek’s tumultuous relationship with his father continues to fracture, and his best friend Ernie is put in the tight position of balancing his dual identities. Meanwhile, the ominous Dark Star laboratories continues its seedy machinations. DiDio manages to cram so much into four pages.
Sadly, the dialogue feels a bit contrived and specific story elements feel rushed. Very little interaction has gone on between the citizens of the dark realm and Sideways. Readers are left to assume that Derek has grown closer to them between the panels. The structure of this shadowy realm is simple — the citizens fuel their overlord Perrus with life energy, who in turn provides them with safety. History has shown us that despots are not easily overthrown, and yet one naysayer causes an uprising. It simply felt forced.
Thus far, Sideways’ time in the Dark Realm lacks depth. DiDio saves this thread by once asking adding an element of mystery. A cloaked figure with ties to Derek’s past is introduced, instantly begging more questions, and the final panel has big reveal with ties to Sideways Annual #1.
Max Raynor has taken over art duties on the issue. His style is commendable, but some of the art is undetailed and relatively simple. Yet, other times his technique is sturdy and works in unison with DiDio’s writing. The above-mentioned final panel of the issue? Perfection. If only the sheer awe of that panel could translate throughout the entire issue. The greatest tool in Raynor’s toolbox is his ability to convey emotion on characters’ faces. The expressions are spot on. Ms. Flynn’s smug demeanor is noticeable, Ernie’s rage at her sister is powerful, and when Sideways is attacked by Perrus the pain on his face is palpable.
Overall, Sideways #9 is a solid outing. It doesn’t take big chances or make a lasting impression, but it taps into several story paths lying in wait while leaving audiences on a cliffhanger.