DISCLAIMER: This post will deal with some pretty graphic sexual content and imagery. Viewer discretion is advised.
I’m sorry, but… Doctor Doom would totally be getting a blow job every time The Avengers raid his castle. At least once, Batman needs to burst into the Joker’s hideout and find Harley Quinn bending him over a pile of dynamite. No… We don’t need to make alternative super sexualized versions of mainstream comics, we need to learn how to include more realistic sexual content into some mainstream comics, without them being categorized solely for containing sexual content. I’m fairly certain that superheroes mess around. I’m even more certain that super villains are into some pretty crazy shit. It would make for more realistic story telling to include some of that, occasionally. SEX is definitely an incredibly engaging story that combines a unique blend of Joe Casey’s brilliant story telling, Piotr Kowalski’s breath taking artwork and… it just happens to also include some realistically placed graphic sexual content.
Our society is a little screwed up. You have to admit that it’s a little odd that it’s completely acceptable to have a hero brutally decimate hundreds of ninjas with knives that pop out of his hands, but once you try and show two right minded characters having consensual sex, your book is going to end up behind a curtain in the back of the comic shop. I’m not blowing the lid off of a major conspiracy by saying the lack of healthy sexual representation and education designed to properly create dialogues regarding sexual awareness, are staggeringly outdated and/or non-existent in our society. Naturally, it would hold true that comic books would equally reflect our culture’s immense fear of openly discussing and displaying… fornication… BOOM! POW! VULVA! And don’t tell me that comic books are still marketed towards children and couldn’t possibly contain sex. Bullshit. It we were so concerned about what children are seeing in comics, we wouldn’t write about shit like extraterrestrial entities exploding suns and destroying entire inhabited galaxies or heroes coming home to find their girlfriends squeezed into a refrigerator.
Joe Casey’s SEX tells the story of billionaire Simon Cooke (*cough*BruceWayne*cough*) who once protected Saturn City (*cough*Gotham*cough*) as the costumed vigilante, the Armored Saint (*cough*Bat.. OH. You get the point). After the death of his mentor, Simon agrees to retire from his super hero alter ego life style and attempt to live his life as a regular civilian. A regular civilian who just so happens to be incredibly rich and the CEO of one of the worlds biggest corporations. After a 6 month sabbatical, Simon returns to his city and slowly learns that living life as a normal, may be even more difficult then living life as a emotional stunted masked vigilante.
While, SEX is not the first mainstream comic to include sex and sexuality in it’s pages, Joe Casey’s scripted sexual content never feels like it was simply added for shock value. Every scene has it’s purpose and usually represents something emotionally deeper. The sex in SEX exists as it would if these situations were really happening. Despite the name of the comic, sex is not the main focus of the book, it is the symbolism behind the sex that matters most. A crime lord would be getting a blow job while laying out his plan to his henchman in some weird display of power. Yes, Of course, Shadow Lynx (Catwoman) would masturbate to the memory of Armored Saint (Batman) pinning her up against a wall after an action packed rooftop chase. Yes, the ‘Robin’ character would go home, after taking out a couple of mob bosses, and have enthusiastic sex with his girlfriend. It’s more realistic to believe this than to believe that nerdy Peter Parker is going home (after rescuing the entire city) to his super hot model girlfriend and simply falling asleep on the couch. C’monnnn…
One of the more interesting elements of SEX is how Joe Casey displays the psychological ramifications of what being a severely dedicated masked vigilante would have on your ability to socially interact and function in normal society. Having sworn his entire life to fighting crime, of course our hero wouldn’t really know how to interact in normal sexual situations. In the quest for peak physical fitness and total combat readiness, It’s understandable to imagine that one would miss out on a few normal adolescent sexual milestones. Simon Cooke has gone on dates and attended functions, but, it was always in professional disguise of his ordinary alter ego. The essence of SEX is that of the costumed persona being the primary personality and the difficulty of having to now live a normal life once that vigilante identity has been put away. What do you dedicate your life to once you’ve stopped dedicating it to the one thing that has always defined you?
Even the villains of the book are at a loss to fill the void left in the absence of the Armored Saint. Can the Joker still find enjoyment in being the Joker, if he doesn’t have the reflection of Batman to counter balance him? It’s interesting to consider that the activities involved with being a hero and/or a villain would serve as some sort of substitute for sexual activity. Would saving the world or escaping a death trap feel as equally as satisfying as an orgasm? Once those aspects of your life are removed, could you possibly find a substitute for them in a super fetishized sexual environment? Could tradition sex even compare to such a hyper active life style? How would one try and re- integrate themselves into a normal existence after having had lived such an extraordinary life?
Not only does SEX brilliantly tackle sexual representation in our society and in comics, the design and artistic flavor of this book matches so perfectly with the feel of the world Joe Casey has conjured. The universe on display in SEX is reminiscent of visual worlds found mostly in 80s comic masterpieces, yet quickly establishes that these particular artistic elements belong solely to the world of SEX. Every inch of every highly detailed panel tells its own story and you can’t help but blush when you realize you’ve been staring at an orgy for over 3 minutes. Every naked body has power, yet quickly disappears into the background of the story. Piotr Kowalski’s art and Brad Simpson’s vibrant colors walk us through the slums of Saturn City and we can’t help but feel tainted by the griminess that paints every wall. We dance on the elegant balcony’s of the hedonistic social elite and look out at the sheer vastness of Piotr’ Kowalski’s kingdom. Through out the book, you feel overwhelmed by the sheer scope of Saturn City from afar and then immediately cringe in a claustrophobic panic at the detailed intimacy you are suddenly thrust into. One minute you’re in a ferry calmly marveling at the glorious empire of Piotr’s imagination and the next you’re standing in a puddle of human waste with an unnerving sense of impending horror. In the pages of SEX, we see a beautiful painting of a modern city of heroes and villains and can almost taste the dirt that runs through it’s veins.
Is the story of SEX original? In a way.. Yes. It does draw heavily upon story lines and traditional comic book tropes that are extremely familiar in the pop culture zeitgeist. What it does do differently is how it explores the realistic elements of such a hyper realistic version of our world and juxtaposes that against our own culture’s repressed ideas regarding sex. It doesn’t add situations to shock the audience or prove how gritty it is. What it does is heavily embrace the realism of these outrages situations and doesn’t shy away from the reality of things. The allegory of a character with extraordinary skills and abilities, who is unable to handle the most basic of sexual situations reflects greatly our own cultures willingness to show all forms of violence and realistic human interactions, but, an inability to openly address sexual content and the deeper emotional baggage we all have regarding sex. This is definitely the one of the best stories that I have read this year.
Rating 9 out of 10
The first 8 issues of SEX are now collected in a trade paper back (Volume 1) retailing for just $9.99!