Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Publisher: Image (Joe’s Comics)
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)
As a child of the 80s I imagined a time when THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS would one day move from “What If” to actual continuity. A day when a Robin, any Robin would actually don the Cowl and take on his own little grunger, gother, emo or hipster as an assistant in short pants. As we all know this is a pipe dream, as soon as characters become too long in tooth a mystical reset button is pushed that forces fountain of youth elixir down the throats of all our heroes. With the exception of Nightwing, it’s virtually impossible for sidekicks to graduate to full-blown heroes.
Not in the Joe’s Comics world though. If you’re looking for a love letter to those that live in the shadow of heroes, look elsewhere. By Straczynski’s own admission in the letter that closes this inaugural issue, he has little love or respect for the mighty tykes put on sentry duty. In short, JMS has never bought the bullshit that kids are competent and disciplined enough to take on the mighty task of saving lives.
Quite honestly, incompetent is the best way to describe a Sidekick’s value sans their hero counterparts. JMS has a definitive dark take on heroes. Not as dark as Ennis, but there’s little sunshine and rainbow unicorn droppings when JMS takes on capes outside of already established brands. Fly-Boy of Sol city is one such fallen angel.
The book starts with optimism to help herald the true nature of a heroics. Sadly this golden age tarnishes quickly when the Fly-Boy’s mentor, the Red-Cowl, is assassinated during a parade of all places. Actually it happens before that. To keep the exposition moving JMS jumps time periods more often than Marty McFly. An opening of heroics in way back when, followed by a present day extorted blow-job for Fly-Boy from a hooker who is more Julia Childs than Julia Roberts. Back to remember when and we see the Red-Cowl, Fly-Boys mentor take a slug to the chest during an honorary parade, back to present and Fly-Boy is drinking himself into a stupor.
Apparently the Red-Cowl didn’t leave his affairs in order and superheroing is a much bigger drain on corporate coffers than Batman ever let on. I’ve always hated the concept of Batman Inc., but then I never considered the tax shelters it apparently provides. Also, being a super hero is a less coveted job than being President. No one and I mean no one wants to step into Red-Cowl’s shoes. No other Playboy millionaires, no even guerilla heroes like Rorschach. No one wants the gig and sadly our friend Fly-Boy sprouts one pube too many to be taken seriously as a Sidekick anymore.
The metaphor is apparent; Fly-Boy is the comic equivalent of so many child stars who ride the wave of cuteness only to grow up with the face of Fred Savage instead of Danica McKellar. These reflections of real life slathered in fantastic always make for the best books and are becoming the running theme for Joe’s Comics.
The book ends with a surprise I refuse to ruin; it will obliterate the aesthetic distance you need to enjoy the pages prior. I will say though, that Fly-Boy’s suffering has been needless.
With only the second offering from Joe’s Comics, we can’t claim Skybound success yet however I can applaud JMS’ commitment to variety over Kirkman’s offerings. Kirkman has been a slow bleed over the years with spin-offs more than original books. JMS is creating universes instead of suns within one contained spiral. Read SIDEKICK for the story, to revel in Mandrake’s pretty pretty pictures and to get in on the ground floor of Image’s true next big thing. TV and movies make or break comic value people, and JMS studios is the only #1’s from Image that have the clout to get there quickly.
P.S.: +2 creativity and marketing attributes for the QR code driven audio plays of the books that Joe keeps Easter Egging inside his #1’s.