[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Storytellers: Kenneth Rocafort and Dan DiDio
Colors: Daniel Brown
Letters: Dave Sharpe
After his crazy adventure across the multiverse, Derek finally has to come home and face reality, and boy is there a lot of it. With Derek’s dad and Ernie wondering where he’s been, the last thing Derek needs is a new villain interested in hunting him down. Unfortunately, things are about to go Sideways!
What a fantastic homecoming for both Derek and Rocafort. I found his art a little choppy and jarring at the beginning of my reviews with this series, but I think I just failed to recognize the beauty of that style, and upon reflection, Rocafort’s art is rather extraordinary, especially in this book. The art and writing really make this issue feel like home. It contains the down to Earth beats that make Derek such a great character. It also is able to help Derek stand out from those similar to him. Mr. James’s reaction to Derek is really unique to comics, because in a lot of ways, he doesn’t want Derek. Derek and Mr. James were just two individuals who loved the same person, and Helen James loved both of them. Throughout these past ten issues, Derek and Mr. James have simply coexisted, and now their glue is gone. Neither can possibly understand the other’s situation and both of them are at a loss as to how to move forward. It’s an intense family dynamic rarely shown through the comic book medium, and I commend the way DiDio and Rocafort portrayed it through the beginning of this book.
The beginning is also a big lesson about grief. Everyone grieves in different ways, and whether consciously or not, Derek ran away from his grief while Mr. James was force by a lot of external factors to deal with it head on. The anger he feels at Derek for making him go through it alone is, in many ways, warranted. A tragic situation such as what happened is not fair to anyone, and that was portrayed very well in this issue.
Ernie and Derek’s friendship is another of Derek’s relationships that is done with extreme care. Derek left Ernie without warning the same way he did his father, but Ernie doesn’t get mad, but rather tries to understand. Now its Ernie’s time to escape and Derek is more than happy to oblige. He takes her to Paris, of all places, and lets Ernie talk about her stressful situation first. It would be completely understandable for Derek to need to spill everything out of stress, but they truly support each other, and they have a great friendship. When the time came for Sideways to step in and save the day, Ernie instilled the confidence no one else could, and Sideways had one of his first incidents of professional heroism.
Finally, the expansion of Leviathan into Sideways is a great choice. It is tangential to both Silencer and Superman, the two comics already set to feature Leviathan, and it subtly drops hints at a future large-scale event. I also enjoyed Bolt, the not-so-subtle Punisher riff.
I only have one major negative, but it is fairly egregious. Ms. Dominus is supposed to be the evil mastermind for this entire series, but she falls extremely flat. She really epitomizes the static corporate villain trope, and I am hoping that she gets more interesting in the last three issues.
Overall, a fantastic homecoming for Derek, Rocafort, and all of the street level elements that make this series great.