Sidekick for Hire is a satirical superhero comedy that hits just a little bit different. Writer Kristian Herrera, artist Rick Alves, colorist Veronica Saraceno and letterer Toben Racicot combine forces to deliver fun and fresh dynamic amidst slow-sinking reality. Of the two issues so far, it shows both promise and well-crafted blend of writing and art. The premise is simple: Leo is just your ordinary college kid, working to pay his dues. Except, his line of work is anything but ordinary – he’s a sidekick for hire. In a world where heroes exist, yet college tuition fees remain prevalent necessary evils, Leo learns that crime-fighting is not exactly just all fun and games.
The first issue is a striking introduction. It sets the premise and builds the world progressively with each turn of the page. As a start, it already has depth amidst perfectly toned comedy and weighted down semi-cliffhangers. In contrast, the second issue is slow in moving the plot forward. A little bit fast-paced in terms of time lapse and action, but less new content to work with. While paling in comparison to #1, it does provide many potential directions for the story to go; there are new plot beats alongside new characters. Still, it remains a bit anticlimactic and does little to further pique the readers’ interest outside of #1’s efforts.
There is a lot to love about Sidekick for Hire in terms of writing. It is vibrant, has fun narration with lots of dry humor, plenty of wit, and deadpan sarcasm. This is mixed with old school comic dialogue, and familiar superhero clichés. Using college-typical life against the superhero world backdrop is an interesting one; the mundane everyday activity blends with the mildly realistic presentation of the superhero system. The casual mention of hero deaths slowly desensitize the readers, easing them into the story through world-building. This further adds to the comic’s over-indulgent use of realism to promote satire, especially when talking about heroism as a day job to earn money for food to eat.
Leo, however, is not the most enjoyable of main characters. His lack of self-awareness and incompetence evokes frustration; a double-edged sword reaction. This helps further cultivate the satire within the comic. However, it in turn makes it very hard for readers to sympathize with him. Nuance becomes overshadowed by early opinions of his character. This poses as a glaring issue in the more serious parts of the story.
Often, the main protagonists for satire-written media fall into two main categories. The first are the insufferable, overly obnoxious characters. These characters are so over the top with their actions and confidence, they actually become inspiring. The other category are the remarkably incapable characters, with very minimal common sense. As characters, they are stereotypically dumbed down. But with their kind hearts and good intentions, they become quite charming and endearing.
Leo does not fall under either of these. He doesn’t have the purest intentions, nor does he have that captivating confidence. He isn’t such a fumbling idiot who tries his best either. All he is, is just a plain everyday character with a side job that exposes the worst parts of himself – careless, incompetent, a little bit selfish, and a bad friend. This makes it so hard to like him, the crux of an otherwise very good series. In fact, I’d argue to say Jamie, his best friend, is more of a dimensional character than Leo is.
What I do enjoy is the colorful use of comedy and art. Internal dialogue in the narration allows for direct comedic timing, and elicits unexpected humor. This works well with spunky character designs. The costumes take typical inspirations from common superhero tropes, but adds a little bit of its own quirky little twist. Both of these work to set a very playful energy that contrasts against the blue-toned filter.
The panel layout is designed to increase the impact of each attack during fight scenes; separating the hit, like punches and kicks, from results, such as blood spilling out of the nose or broken teeth. This elongates the action sequences and makes them more of an anticipating readthrough. The arrangement of these panels outside of the action also allow events to transition naturally between actions and consequences. This works alongside relevant pieces of expository texts to add suspense. This in turn increases the weight of the consequences, while maintaining that same comedic flare.
The best part of Sidekick for Hire is definitely the ending sequence in #1. It is such an amazing presentation of the revelation. The slow sinking realization, the play-by-play of what happened spliced between present lamentations, the transition from light blue hues to purple shades as the door closes, the narration that somewhat humanizes Leo if only for a little while, the use of shadows, the ever looming presence of the gun both in the past and present; all of that just culminates into such a powerful dose of reality. This is almost reflective of the early beginning of #1 where we first see the hero die. The irony is so cleverly sewn into the dialogue and the flashback. I particularly like the way “to be a hero” falls dangerously close to the gun.
Overall, I like Sidekick for Hire. I definitely enjoyed the first issue more than the second. They do offer similar experiences in terms of writing and art, being consistent in both regards. The only thing separating the two issues are the events that occur and how they are dealt with. We see a small inkling of character development in Leo between the two issues, and even a glimpse into his own moral dilemma. But this does not absolve his character flaws which remain inherent throughout the two issues.