Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Line Art: Tom Mandrake
Letters: Troy Peteri
Review by Joey Braccino
What happens to the sidekick after the hero is gone???
In this Modern Era of dark and moody superhero storytelling, sidekick stories can often spiral down into a depressing, bleak whirlpool of inadequacy and insecurity. After all, it’s always AND Robin, AND Bucky, or AND Speedy. A lot of these superhero-and-teenage-sidekick stories end tragically—death by pipe, exploding planes, drug addiction, complete and utter retconning out of existence—often resulting in soul seeking and character progression for the primary hero of the story.
Sidekick #1 seeks to subvert the sidekick-as-expendable trope, but still give us all that dark and angsty insecurity drama. The issue opens with our titular sidekick, Flyboy, aiding the Cowl in battle. Flyboy saves the day, earning praise from the Cowl and the people of Sol City, albeit for a short time. The opening sequence reeks of the romanticism and cavalier heroism of the Golden Age of comics, a testament to J. Michael Straczynski ability to juggle the distinct styles of superheroic comics across eras. While the first sequence channels his work on The Twelve over at Marvel, the rest of the issue, featuring Flyboy’s attempts to stay heroic and stay important is loaded with the sort of psychodrama and hopelessness of some of his Spider-Man work. Now, in those latter stories, Peter Parker had an uncanny ability to bounce back and save the day, but, of course, Spider-Man is no sidekick. After the
Cowl “leaves” the picture (No spoilers! But the sequence that ends Cowl’s tenure as defender of Sol City is shocking and unsettling), Flyboy descends into a rabbit hole of decadence and irrelevance. One particularly depressing scene sees Flyboy attempt to raise funds for new superhero gear on a Kickstarter like website. Needless to say, he’s nowhere near his target goal…
DC Comics Legend Tom Mandrake provides artwork perfectly suited to JMS’ emotional spectrum. The classic Bronze Age feel of Mandrake’s lines befits the throwback feel of the narrative, but it’s his ability to shift from light linework during ethereal flying sequences to moody, heavy inks in industrial lofts and tenement buildings that really makes Sidekick work. HiFi’s colors attain a similar range of vibrancy and dreariness, while never overwhelming Mandrake’s designs or inks.
Worth a look for fans of subversive, superheroic storytelling. Akin to the classic Watchmen, J. Micahel Straczynski’s Sidekick #1 flips the stereotypical tropes of sidekicks and superheroes on their collective heads, resulting in a deeply unsettling and incredibly promising new series from Image Comics and Joe’s Comics.