Dumbass Details in Sideways 2

By Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Last month, I praised Sideways 1’s hyper-specificity. Writers Dan DiDio and Justin Jordan crafted an excruciatingly detailed world for the would-be superhero Derek and his geek-culture-obsessed best friend Ernie. Artist Kenneth Rocafort dutifully filled the pages with visual details, whether painstakingly realizing the Gotham City skyline or Ernie’s shrine to cosplay and video games. The high I was feeling from that issue has all but evaporated during the second issue as the details began to feel awkward, forced, or generic.

I don’t really relish the opportunity to talk about why I didn’t like a comic book, especially when a number of the complaints are going to be “this was dumb and unspecific,” but here goes. The first detail that got me questioning their role in this issue is Derek’s narration referring to Tempus Fuginaut as “some nightmare from a Kirby comic.”

D…does Jack Kirby exist within the DC Universe? Even if he does, how does a 16 year old kid in 2018 know Kirby well enough to identify a character that looks like it could have been created by him? Like, that’s some abstract analysis from a kid who was born 8 years after Kirby died. It sounds like the observation of a middle aged comics pro. Jordan, DiDio and Rocafort aren’t showing me Derek here — they’re showing me Jordan, DiDio and Rocafort.

It doesn’t help that Derek has this thought while clinging to the side of the “Gotham State Building” which has got to be the laziest naming job I’ve ever read in a comic. The name doesn’t even track logically: the Empire State Building isn’t called the New York State Building (and if it was, it’d be some bureaucratic office complex in Albany). You want to name a skyscraper in Gotham? Name it for one of the affluent families or powerful companies in the city. Wayne, Kane, Powers, Cobblepot, Elliot — YOU’VE GOT TONS OF OPTIONS.

Sorry, I’m getting worked up here, and I’m not even off the second page. Here’s another early detail that irked me. Ernie calls an Uber to take Derek to the hospital. I’m going to gloss over the fact that the reader really doesn’t need an answer to the question “how did they get from Ernie’s house to the hospital?” The name that Jordan and DiDio came up with for the fake ride sharing app is “Carber.” It’s an absurd name that only works if you already have “Uber” in your head — otherwise where does that “-ber” come from?

But, okay, now that we’ve gone through the trouble of naming the ride share program (enduring a clumsy portmanteau in the process) and explaining that that’s how the kids are riding to the hospital, there must be some kind of point, right? Here’s a fun fact about Uber and Lyft, it is against company policy to use the cars as emergency medical vehicles, for obvious liability-related reasons. Ernie says to a crumpled Derek “no one dies on my watch!” and the Carber driver… just shuts up and takes it? I really don’t know what the point of including this detail is if the team is just going to get it wrong.

Then the story switches over to Derek’s mother’s perspective, and the creative team continues to trade in tropes and clumsy details. She recounts her experience in Gotham and actually says “every first responder was out on the street” as though that’s what she was looking for. “First responder” is a term invented for headlines and magnetic ribbons. She should have been looking for a police officer, a fire fighter, anyone who looked like they knew what they were doing.

It’s just a lot of lazy, nonspecific writing. Glad you nailed that Kirby ref tho.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

6 comments on “Dumbass Details in Sideways 2

  1. I didn’t comment on Sideways 1 even though I read it. I try to comment on comics that I’ve read that you guys review just to keep conversation alive, but I made an exception there because I was really unimpressed with issue 1. I like Rocafort, I liked most of what he did (although he has a very ’90s style in his female art and I don’t like that part a lot, I think his strengths are panel construction, layouts and scene), but the characters felt wrong.

    They felt like teenagers written by adults. And I know teenagers pretty well, I spend 40+ hours a week with them through teaching, clubs, and coaching. And so I silently dropped it and put it in my “Save in case they make a movie but really it’s just a box of unimpressive #1s” box and didn’t think about issue 2. I’m sad it didn’t get better. Rocafort should be a star.

    • Rocafort should be star, but I feel like they keep teaming him up with stuffy old-timers that just write boring, out-of-touch bullshit. I would still make the argument that he more or less saves the first issue by selling the details of Derek and Ernie’s lives, even if those details didn’t ring true for you (and they did for me).

      I do think that Rocafort’s art is notably worse here, as he doesn’t have anything to support. It’s a bummer, but I believe we’re talking this off the pull.

      • I don’t like to explicitly call out creators by name here if I don’t like their work – but I haven’t liked anything Dan Didio has been on as a writer since the New 52. And that’s fine, I don’t have to like every creator, and other commenters here are not shy about sharing their negative feelings about creators (Hi Matt!), but I try to show restraint because I know you all have relationships with several creators.

        I just don’t care for Didio as a writer and I know I don’t but I tried this anyway because I liked the other people on the title. But I still don’t.

        • Didio is a bad writer. I remember trying to read his work before the New 52, and hating it. His material has never worked. It is the big problem with this supposedly artist driven launch of Books (other than the fact I find most of the artists boring as hell). You have someone like Rocaforte, who deserves success, and leave him to drown without proper support.

          Rocaforte feels like he has been wandering around for a good writer for ages, and it is a shame. Because he should be a bigger success than he is, he just needs to find the right book

          And yeah, I know I’m not afraid to express negative feelings about creators. I like to put a book in context with other work, and sometimes that means discussing thjngs positively, sometimes it means discussing how a particular creator releases a string of failures all with the same problems

        • I know that I liked both runs of the Ultimates more than you did, so I don’t know that Rocafort is ‘in search of a good writer.’ I think, if nothing else, the content of the story in Ultimates provided Rocafort a perfect opportunity to show off how outstanding he is.

          On the other hand, without significant story changes, I don’t know how this series goes more than 8 issues.

          I do strive to not say, “Tom Hanks is a bad actor.” (for example) I’d rather say, “I didn’t like how Tom Hanks portrayed Allen’s indecision when Madison needed to be free.” I never know when someone here is going to think Tom Hanks, who obviously is bad at his job, sometimes does a good job in whatever film he is in.

          However, also in this case, I know nobody who is anxiously awaiting the next Dan Didio book except possibly Mrs. Didio. I have no idea if he’s a good editor, but I have seen no proof yet that he’s a good writer. — You know, I don’t even like saying that here. I’d rather say I don’t like his work rather than he is bad at his work. I’ve just found too much variance in what people like in art of all kinds to say someone is bad.

          But if I were to start, I think Didio would be a fine candidate.

          Damn, I got wishy-washy when I got old.

        • I think Rocaforte needs to get attached to something of the level of Mighty Thor. A collaboration with a great writer that can really bring out the best of him. A top tier book, that sets the conversation. And even if you like Ultimates, I don’t think anyone would call Ultimates that great.

          And I think the problem with your Tom Hanks argument is that Banks has an amazing set of movies outside of Splash, so calling him a bad actor because of your opinion on Splash would be stupid – you can point to something like Bridge of Spies as proof. That’s why, despite King being one of the worst working writers today, I often reference the fact that he made three masterpieces. His awful work doesn’t change the fact that I used to be his biggest fan. Same reason I will happily say Ewing has one good book in Loki.

          But if we talk about someone like Waid,the problem is the startlingly lack of actual good books. When your best work ofnthe startlingly waste of potential of Tower of Babel. When you are responsible for Kingdom Come, a poorly done assault on a straw man of an issue that deserved a good critique. When you murdered a million dollar idea in Daredevil out of sheer disinterest. When you are responsible for the sheer emptiness of Avengers and Champions. When you fail the most basic storytelling in Archie, Black Widow and Captain America… Maybe you are a bad writer.
          Waid could improve. Jai Courtney was a boring actor until he was actually interesting and weird in Suicide Squad. Charlie Humman was the same until he gave a great performance in Lost City of Z. I used to hate Kelly Thompson’s dialogue in Jem, but love Hawkeye.
          I wouldn’t call any writer or actor or artist a bad artist because they messed up once. When there is a pattern? That’s a different story

          Maybe I could say ‘I don’t like his work’, but I am giving an opinion so I feel that is self evident. And when I back my opinion up with arguments, giving those arguments a strong conclusion shows my faith in my arguments. Which is why I use I think only when I want to create doubt in my own argumentation, maybe because I don’t have faith in a particular line of thought or feel I lack the particular expertise on the topic. If I’ve made an argument I believe in, even if others disagree, I want to show a confident front in what I’ve argued. And if someone thinks I’m wrong, I’ve done the best I can to express my view and at the very least, they can understand why I think that

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