In Review: Sidekick #10

Peek behind the curtain, if you dare.

The cover: Former Flyboy, Barry Chase, has got a maniacal look upon his face, his eyes painted in blood, and above him the specter of death wearing the helm of his former partner the Red Cowl. This is a creepy cover from Tom Mandrake and Hi-Fi that warns readers this is not going to be a pleasant tale of super heroics, but for those that have been following this series religiously, as I have been, this hints that this may contain the confrontation we’ve been awaiting. Overall grade: A

The story: “Full Circle” begins on Thomas Winchester’s swamp island, where he’s secreted himself away from the world, having faked his death as the Red Cowl. His butler has packed four suitcases for him, as he’s about to get out of Dodge quickly, suspecting that someone has discovered he’s alive. A purplish fog surrounds his house, and altered to it, Thomas says, “That’s not fog.” The figures of Barry and Julia Moonglow appear and burst through the window. The manservant produces two machine guns to protect his master, but he’s torn apart by Julia. Thomas responds, “If that little show of force was meant to scare me, it didn’t work. I was going to have to kill him anyway. You just saved me the trouble.” By giving the hero of Barry’s life such inhumane dialogue, J. Michael Straczynski has put the reader in a unique position. Whom does one root for in this book? Thomas is a monster of a super hero, whose later dialogue shows his disdain for those that look up to him. Julia is hellbent on avenging the death of her sister at the Cowl’s hands. She’s probably using her abilities to manipulate Barry’s mind. And then there’s Barry, the sidekick. All he ever wanted was to be a hero, but with his mentor gone his life has crumbled. No matter how hard he’s tried, he’s been unsuccessful and labeled a joke by the media and the people. The poster child for bullying, Barry has evolved into a cold blooded killer, who with Julia, is determined to make his one time idol pay, and this is the issue where it happens. But Karma hates Barry, as Pages 16 and 17 show. Pages 19 – 21 are one hell of a climax, but this isn’t the complete ending of Barry’s tale. There’s one more issue to go, and I think the fifth panel on Page 22 is foreshadowing what will be his undoing. Can Barry fall any further from humanity? Next issue will tell. Overall grade: A+

The art: Tom Mandrake doesn’t have to draw much beyond reality in this issue. Oh, there are people flying and feats of strength, but there’s mostly reality, and that’s what makes the visual look of this book so intense. It’s grounded in the real world. If someone with super strength is going to rip someone apart, it’s not going to be censored in any way–it’s going to be horrifically graphic (as it is on Pages 4 and 5), and that makes any individual that has powers not one to worship, but one to be afraid of. And there are a lot of people to be afraid of. Thomas’s stares are terrifying as he confronts Barry, showing him to be so far removed from humanity to make him a monster. When shown in partial silhouette at the bottom of Page 7, readers know this statement to be true. Barry is even more terrible for the rage he feels, so perfectly shown on Pages 11, 13, and the last panel on 23. Even more terrible is his smile. Page 20’s fourth panel is a beautiful head shot (no pun intended) of Barry and he looks so beautiful, so in love, which only makes what’s happening more horrific. The page that follows this is a terrific mirror image of the action that launched this series. And things go BOOM big time in Mandrake’s art. The death of the butler is only is a blip on the graphic meter for what occurs on Page 9. I’ve never felt more sorry for an alligator in my entire life. Mandrake follows this up with the action on Page 13. Wow! This isn’t fantasy, this is dark reality, thanks to Mandrake’s vision. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The incredibly talented collective known as Hi-Fi does their usual spectacular job on this book. The light violets used on the opening pages tell readers that this is no normal fog approaching. The gory explosion that kills the butler begins as a bright white light within him until it leaves his body in a rose-ish mess. Against the bloody mess of his manservant, Thomas stands on Page 5 in bright colors befitting the hero the world said he was. The orange and yellow work on Page 9 is amazing. The killer coloring comes on Page 20’s blues for Barry’s eyes. They’d melt your heart if they were real, but there’s no soul within them. Is it asking too much to have Hi-Fi color every book on the market? Overall grade: A+

The letters: Grand slamming this book home are the letters by Troy Peteri. Dialogue, opening title and credits, sounds, and signage are all done by him. His screams and yells will make readers’ hearts skip a beat as they’re encountered, and the sounds will shock your system. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This series asks readers to confront what makes someone good or evil. Each person will have to make their own decision, but I do know that this is good. Really damn good. If you’re left wondering who your heroes are, the creators have done their jobs. Peek behind the curtain, if you dare. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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