Review by: Ed Allen I suppose you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth paying for Sex #3, the latest offering in Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s unusually erotic take on the superhero concept, and lucky for you I’m here to dish the dirt on what I found between the sheets (of paper).
For those of you haven’t already tried Sex, it’s essentially a superhero comic where much (but not all) of the violence has been replaced with some fairly graphic sex scenes. In the story so far, we’ve been introduced to Simon Cooke, a retired parallel of Batman who’s life spent fighting crime in the futuristic Saturn City has left him with a personal life in tatters and a whole host of psychological complexes on top of some crippling sexual repression, alongside a small supporting cast which includes an ex-Robin type, a Catwoman-alike, a handful of brutal villains and a whole bunch of naked people.
The plot has moved fairly slowly in the first couple of issues but fortunately Casey’s plot has started to pick up pace now that he has introduced us to the core cast and the setting. In this issue Simon finds himself increasingly detached from his family’s corporation and his few remaining friends, coming to the realisation that his single-minded dedication to “saving” Saturn City has left him wholly alienated from anything that could be thought of as an ordinary life, while his former sidekick has kicked up a hornet’s nest of furious (and beauty-obsessed) gangsters. Also: there’s sex and unlike a lot of the sex in previous issues it looks like all of the participants inissue #3 are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
As I mentioned in previous reviews, Kowalski’s artwork is absolutely superb and brilliantly brought to life by Brad Simpson’s searing, high-contrast colors; an effective partnership with Kowalski’s lines being very realistic and Simpson’s colors abandoning the confines of strict realism with the intention of creating moody atmospheres to suit each moment. Kowalski’s cityscapes are nothing short of stunning and his characters are rendered with a smooth precision and level of detail that’s remarkably impressive for a monthly comic. Certain panels, particularly during the final sex scene and earlier when a gun is fired, really show what this partnership can achieve together when they really cut loose and since the first issue of Sex I’ve been genuinely excited to see what the pair can come up with in each new installment.
I still find myself curiously unsatisfied by Sex #3, which is particularly odd given that all of the individual jigsaw pieces necessary to put together an excellent comic are in place. The artwork and colors are nothing short of superb, the concept is perfectly workable and quite original compared to most of the variations on the superhero theme that are regularly introduced into the marketplace, there’s nothing wrong with Casey’s dialogue and any comic that tries to push the boundaries of its genre is worthy of praise. Yet still I find that Sex leaves me cold, without the emotional involvement or self-insertion that might come from being able to identify (however closely or vaguely) with at least one of the characters. While the slight acceleration in plot pacing for each of the issues so far suggests that my longstanding concern about Sex moving too slowly for many readers to enjoy in a monthly format will soon be unfounded, the other troubles I mentioned in previous reviews have not yet been removed.
It’s possible that Casey wants us to feel this way, that he’s playing a long game where Simon Cooke’s social alienation and inability to discover the joys of sex is mirrored our own feelings of alienation towards Sex and its cast of characters, but if that’s true then he’s taking a considerably greater risk with his comic than he has in his languid pacing or the risque choice of subject matter. For me, it’s difficult to feel empathy towards a protagonist with stratospheric wealth and peak physical conditioning whose response to the loss of a loved one and depression is to systematically deny himself every opportunity to start a recovery that he’s given.
Regardless of my complaints, Sex is something that I would urge you all to try at least once, especially if you’re looking for something different from the typical superhero experience. It’s only possible for talented creators like Casey and Kowalski to fall short when they aim high and I think it’s fair to say that they’re aiming high with Sex. I’m very curious to see how the series will develop from here and given that there’s a lot of people who I think will enjoy this comic, particularly its artwork, I would hate to think that my personal tastes have turned you off.
Score: 3/5 (but it’s a strong 3)
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 5/22/13