Kenneth Rocafort and Dan Didio’s 11th entry into the Sideways story arc escalates the action in the foreground while pulling together several plot threads in the background. The terrorization hits closer to home as Ernie’s life is on the line, held in the clutches of the enigmatic Bolt. Meanwhile, Dark Star Lab’s machinations edge ever closer to fruition. The issue is full of action that is enhanced by exciting choices artistically, and a solid pace narratively.
The comic picks up directly after the cliffhanger ending from issue 10. The obvious, immediate situation threatening Sideways is Bolt, a technological mercenary hired by Dark Star Labs. Bolt’s teleportation ability parallels Sideways own space hopping powers; however, Bolt introduces a few new capabilities to the mix. After several pages of frenzied action, the story slows down the physical combat but keeps readers intrigued with upping the ante narratively. Revelations are brought to light and Sideways comes to face to face with his real nemesis, the head of Dark Star labs. A dark rage has been festering within Derek since his mother died, he now has a face to direct his wrath towards.
Previous issues pushed the Dark Star plot forward but at a snail’s pace. Sideways #11 is the satisfying first entry into the culmination of this story. Dark Star’s true motivations are revealed; they seek to drain the Dark Matter energy from Derek to steal his rift powers and tap into the multiverse. The revelation works on two levels. The first of which are audiences now understand the evil corporations’ impetuses. Secondly, it ties Sideways to the DC Universe. The dialogue is robust, but never reaches “Tarantino” levels of wit and cadence. Characters tend to provide information willingly, which feels rote; however, I can’t fault Didio harshly for explicit exposition, considering the issue’s overall goal of finally providing readers with the answers they have clamored for since the very beginning.
Only the less direct front, Didio continues to develop the rest of Sideways‘ cast. Emie continues to build her involvement in Derek’s alter ego antics, providing Derek (and in turn audiences) with a sounding board for his difficulties, but more importantly an ally in his ongoing battles. Her personal life continues to deteriorate with her parents’ sudden divorce. The fallout of her family’s separation is bound to spill over into her relationship with Derek. Lt. Detective Tim Hopkins also get some much-needed face time. Audiences gain insight into the character and his ongoing investigation into the murder of Derek’s mother. Didio does provide a breadcrumb of foreshadowing — Hopkins may have learned of Derek’s identity (it isn’t fully revealed); how this will impact the future remains to be seen.
Within a short period Rocafort’s stylistic, detailed style has become synonymous with Sideways. Any other artist taking over art duties feels out of place, not because their work is lacking, but because Rocafort’s illustrations seem fated for telling this story. Reading Sideways #11 with a critical eye will reveal Rocafort’s best work on the series to date. The battle between Bolt and Derek is paced well, drawn with immense detail, but most notably the choices of eye-catching “shots” services the action.
A character with teleportation powers can be hard to render visually, but Rocafort easily displays the physics of such abilities while simultaneously maintaining the feeling of fluid motion. Emotion can also apply to his art. When Bolt transports both he and Derek hundreds of feet in the air, a worm’s eye view is used to illustrate the sheer height of their new locale, but also to exude a sense of power from Bolt. When a bus is rushing towards Sideways, audiences are privy to a POV shot from underneath the bus’s chassis. I look forward to what Rocafort can do in future action sequences.
With such a short run under their belt, Dan Didio and Kenneth Rocafort have quickly established a character worthy of any fan’s pull-list. Some issues may have felt like necessary bridges to reach the end game, but with the final push to the first significant arc nearing its peak, Sideways has hit its stride.