Review – SideShows Book #1

I think it's fairly common knowledge that Las Vegas as it exists today is a very different animal than the Vegas of the 1950’s. Movies and books like The Godfather give us a pretty good idea – not to mention documentaries and just history in general – that organized crime was a major player in establishing America’s Playground out in the desert of Nevada where no city should realistically exist.

Aside from being ruthless, how did the mob pull it all off? Well in SideShows one theory is presented and while I’m fairly certain this isn’t how it really happened, wouldn’t it be fun to say it did?

Erik Hendrix and Michael David Nelsen write and complete the art, respectively, on this Arcana Studio title where the sideshow acts actually have the powers, making it a little less of an "act"! How is the indestructible strong man bending metal? How does someone seemingly control fire? How does a knife throwing marksman hit the target every time?

What if it isn’t a trick? Imagine a world where people just HAVE those abilities. The strongman is vaguely reminiscent of The Juggernaut and some of the other powers will also seem familiar but re-imagined in this setting.

Read on for a quick review of this new title.

I suppose the first question you might asked when presented with the scenario above is, how the heck would mere mortals (even ones as brutal as the mob) be able to control this group of superpowered individuals? The ringleader of their former circus is how. He has a special ability akin to mind control, and for reasons not quite totally explained he partnered with a major mob boss. This key relationship sees the former circus freaks controlled and used by the mob.

One man with his own unique abilities, who was rejected from the circus back in the day, has come to town to change that. In the ensuing battle some lives are lost and the worst case scenario happens where the mob loses control. In an emergency call back to Italy the Don lays out what is happening and immediately asks, “What have I done?” Needless to say, reinforcements are coming, and I don’t think they are intimidated by the powers of the former circus performers.

The story in this book is really interesting as, other than Charismagic, I don’t think I’ve seen this particular setting in recent memory. The two are very distinguishable though as this title is in 1950s mob Vegas and that particular comic seems to half take place in another dimension - not to mention modern times. That is shocking to me since Vegas would seem to lend a very believable environment where the unbelievable could really happen. I hope that last sentence makes half as much sense written as it did in my head.

The story sets up nicely and there are a ton of relationships and different characters to introduce. I thought Hendrix did a great job mixing in flashbacks to show the relationships forming, giving enough information so that things weren’t incredibly confusing and introducing new mysteries that leaves the reader with a hook to come back next time to find out how they are going to tie into the story.

The artwork is also very interesting. I could have gone for a little more color variety as it exists predominantly in a red/brown color set. This does fit well with the dusty antique like feel of the title and gives some atmosphere that seems appropriate to the gritty nature of a mob run Vegas. The character style has an impressionist look to it that makes it distinguishable from other titles out there.

Overall the combination of different art and a story and setting I can’t believe I haven’t seen more often makes this a book I’m happy to recommend. It has a nice blend of action and proceeds much like you’d expect a book about conflict within organized crime to only with a twist.

Check out the interiors below and be sure to check out SideShows in stores to see whether the former circus freaks can really outgun the resources of the mob in Vegas.