…and now that we’ve gotten your attention, here is another comic book about superheroes…or is it? So yeah, for both good reasons and bad that title really grabs you (they say “Sex sells”, well lets hope sex helps sell Sex), especially if you are someone who shops for comics, arguably the audience most used to paying for sex. It is the title that first grabs you, then second perhaps are Piotr Kowalski’s panels – his style a strange but effective merger of photo-realism, pop-art and Aja-esque minimalism that both tells the tale and looks enticing doing it – third is the fact that certain spoken words are set in coloured boxes – a substitute for bolding emphasis or something else entirely? – and fourth the fact that you just bought a book called Sex and your eyes are focusing on the speech bubbles. What’s going on here, is this pornographic material or not? The answers to that and the earlier question are both a strident no.
Sex is seen in many cultures, our own included, as a kind of makeshift coming-of-age ceremony – you’re not a man until you’ve done it (woman too, I can only assume) – it is what makes us an adults and thus it is considered adult material. Sex the comic book is seemingly employing that idea on the childish caper crusaders that usually sit at the mediums core. Sex offers them maturity, real maturity and contains real adult content, not just a slapped on M rating so that they can get away with actually showing the sexual fantasies that psychoanalytically underpin any and all of their actions. Writer Joe Casey explains this idea best in his gloriously ranting letters column, saying this: “…maybe it’s something we all should talk about… adults reading stories and characters built for children (yet clearly not written for them anymore). There’s a nuanced tension laced in there somewhere.”
Sex then attempts to illustrate that tension by showing us exactly what happens when a superhero decides to grow up, to come of age, and he does this through the example of one Simon ‘The Armoured Saint’ Cooke; an amalgam of Batman, Spider-Man and assuredly many other superheroes. Simon is persuaded by his dying Aunt Mary figure to give up the ghost on this gaudy vigilante grievance and focus instead on the civic functions inherent in running his Wayne like corporation, to attempt to better his home Saturn City in the normal way -ie. through business and personal profit – to live a normal life and what after all is more normal in an adult life than sex?
Maybe normal isn’t the word most people would use to describe the habits held by themselves or others around them but this is exactly what they are: common, by the numbers and absolutely normal; everyone has them so why not superheroes? Maybe i am wrong to have used the word ‘superheroes’ so many times in reference to a story where the only people wearing spandex are the soft core private strippers Simon goes to see; either in a secondary attempt to blow off the steam crime-fighting would commonly vent or to meet up with the mistress Annabelle ( once Shadow-Lynx, Sex’s Catwoman cypher)? Maybe that scene is more revealing that the opening ones filled with banal business techno-babble and Sex simply is about those same urges, about seeing superheroes in sexually compromising positions.
So much about Sex is still a mystery to me at this stage ( perhaps a telling phrase) but that alone makes it brilliant in a way; when near every other book on the stand is so obviously either this or that a ‘what’ tends to stand out. There is an interlude between the business scenes and the ‘business’ scenes that introduces us to a cast of characters that are presumably a part of the Saint’s old Rogues Gallery and their purpose was entirely ambiguous to me but promised a much larger story here than the concept on its own would suggest. There are so many different ways in which Sex can go wrong, so many wrong paths it can follow and wrong positions it can take from here on out, but there was more than enough in this first attempt that intrigued me to justify giving it a second shot somewhere down the line to see if it can properly satisfy. In short Sex isn’t what you think it is and you won’t know what that means until you try it.