This week the DC universe gets a new hero in Sideways, and Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley bring Invincible to a close!
Sideways #1 (DC Comics)
DC’s “Age of Heroes” has had a pretty rough start. After being delayed due to its ties to Metal, the first two titles in the line, Damage and The Silencer, weren’t exactly the best examples of creating new and exciting characters that the publisher was promising. Thankfully though, it looks like the third time is the charm for this new launch with Sideways, the new character (and ongoing series) from Kenneth Rocafort, Dan Didio, and Justin Jordan. With an intriguing set of powers and a somewhat similar back story to a certain wall-crawler from the competition, I’m hopeful that this is the book to really show off DC’s intentions for their Age of Heroes.
Derek James is your average teenager. He’s got classwork, a great girlfriend, and a pretty good home life. The only difference between him and his other classmates is that he has the ability to open rifts in time and space and teleport anywhere he wants to go in the world. Thanks to being in the right place at the right time (or maybe the wrong place at the wrong time) in Gotham during the events of Metal, Derek now has superpowers, and he’s going to use them to become famous on the internet. Everything seems to be going according to plan, until he’s visited by a guardian of space-time who claims that he’s in violation of their rules.
I’ll be honest, seeing Dan Didio’s name on a book doesn’t usually fill me with a lot of confidence. While Didio has been a pretty okay co-publisher for DC, whenever he tries his hand at writing a comic for the publisher the results are typically…not great. But here he’s teamed up with Justin Jordan for dialogue help, and it really makes a difference. Jordan and Didio do the impossible here, making Derek James sound pretty close to how modern day teens sound. The characterization of Sideways and his fellow classmates is definitely the strongest aspect of the issue, as the origin of the character is handled in a pretty quick and off hand manner that could’ve been fleshed out a little more.
Another strength of Sideways #1 is the art, which is handled by the awesome Kenneth Rocafort. Rocafort made a big splash with Red Hood and the Outlaws in the New 52 launch, and while he’s remained pretty quiet since then, Sideways shows that he hasn’t lost any of his style. As great as the art is in this issue, I do wonder how long Rocafort will stay on the book, as he’s not well known for keeping up with a monthly series.
It definitely seems like DC is priming Sideways to be their version of Spider-Man. One look at his costume and poses is all you need to see that. But there’s enough in here that differentiates him from the wall-crawler, and perhaps that initial similarity will be enough to get people to try out this book. If they do they’ll probably find themselves wanting to check out the next issue like I do.
Invincible #144 (Image Comics)
At long last, it’s time for the end of Invincible. Robert Kirkman’s OTHER Image series has been running for just as long as The Walking Dead, but the mainstream appeal that the Walking Dead juggernaut has appreciated has always eluded Invincible, which is a shame, since it’s been one of the best and most original comics on the stands since it began. But all good things need to come to end, and it’s time for Kirkman and Ryan Ottley to put ol’ Mark Grayson out to pasture with Invincible #144.
That’s not to say that Invincible dies in this issue. This is a spoiler free review, but the only one I’ll give you is that Mark Grayson lives a long, happy life. Of course, a horrible death was probably what a lot of people were expecting (Invincible is known for it’s pretty high body count, after all), but that’s not what this final issue is about at all. Instead, it bounces around to show Mark’s life as the head of the Viltrumite Empire, and along the way we watch his daughter Terra grow up, as well as the son he leaves behind on Earth. But Mark’s greatest accomplishment barely has anything to do with Earth or his family, it’s that he’s able to completely change the barbaric ways of his people. In a lot of ways, this final issue serves as a great example of the impact Mark Grayson has had on the people in his life, good and bad.
If there’s one thing to knock this issue for, it’s that it’s certainly brimming with ideas that could have been fleshed out more. At 56 pages, there’s certainly a lot of room for this finale to breathe, but even still, there’s a lot of cool story ideas that are glossed over that could’ve extended the series another few issues had Kirkman decided to keep going. That being said though, Kirkman’s script gives plenty of heartfelt moments to Mark Grayson and his cast of characters. Hell, he even subverts the entire idea of the series with the final moments of the issue. Invincible was always pitched as a “teenager discovers superpowers” kind of book, but now that we’ve reached the end and seen Mark’s accomplishments beyond being a superhero, it’s hard to see it that way.
Of course, I’d be making a huge mistake if I didn’t mention Ryan Ottley’s pencils, which have always been some of the best in the industry. Gifted with crafting incredible action and dramatic moments, he’s arguably the best choice for an artist for this series (sorry original artist Cory Walker), and this issue is him pulling out all the stops. Invincible #144 is full of gorgeous fight sequences and heartbreaking (and hilarious) moments. There are quite a few “dream teams” in comics, and Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley stand tall among the top of that list.
I’m really going to miss Invincible. While it wasn’t a series that I actively collected, I made sure to keep up with it and always enjoyed the world and characters that Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley,and Cory Walker created. Of course, like all things that come to an end, I didn’t fully appreciate the series until this final issue was announced. But if you’ve been holding off to read this, know that it’s a fantastic finale to an even better series, and if you’re going to start it up, know that you’re in for a pretty wild ride.