Like it or loathe it, JMS’ latest tale of superhero debauchery and narrative deconstruction leaves no room for ambivalence.
Flyboy is in bad shape. Doing his best to cope with recent trauma, the ex-sidekick has taken to heavy drinking. Still in shock at the apparent death of his mentor, the hero Red Cowl, he is approached by an old flame of Red Cowl. Using some complicated comic book logic of the sort most readers will be familiar with, she makes the unexpected claim that the hero may have survived the brutal (and bloody) assassination attempt that the world believes claimed his life.
The majority of this second issue is spent delving into the backstory of the two characters, and the nature of the relationship between Flyboy and Red Cowl, but with ten more issues to go, it’s easy to see that the story isn’t slowing down. While the origin story we are given utilizes tropes common to the genre, here they are turned on their head, twisted around in ways that make it clear that Sidekick is anything but your typical dark superhero story.
In ways that are at times subtle, and at other times not so subtle, Sidekick is one huge dig at mainstream superhero comics, and the stock role of the sidekick is just the beginning. Once Straczynski has worked his way into the psyche of the superhero, the secret buttons are all his to push. And he does so, brilliantly and ruthlessly. For some, this will solidify Straczynski’s place alongside other well-known names who have helped to revolutionize and reshape the way comics fans think of superheroes. For others, who may prefer their superhero fare on the lighter side, Sidekick may be one to pass on for now. Either way, there’s no denying that Straczynski, along with artist Tom Mandrake, have crafted an engaging and entertaining story with a motley crew of fleshed-out characters.
Dive into the deep end of the pool that is Sidekick and one thing is certain – you will love it, or you will hate it. This is one comic it is very, very hard to be indifferent about.
J. Michael Straczynski (W), Tom Mandrake (A), HiFi (C) • Image Comics, $2.99, September 11, 2013.