Get out your strap-ons and domino masks, we're reviewing SEX: The Summer of Hard by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski.
Simon Cooke returns to Saturn City after giving up being a superhero. Now he has to work to have a normal life, but can he even figure out what that is?
Oh hey look, another comic about a straight white dude with heteronormative sex hang-ups. Must be a day that ends in Y.
I had a lot of expectations for a book named SEX. A LOT of expectations. I mean, you're naming your book after an act that is used to create human life, an act that is done or thought about by BASICALLY most of the adult world CONSTANTLY. You've got to have a pretty sexed-up book to claim that name. And yet, it's not really about sex. Which is a crime in itself. Sure, there's a lot of sex in it, but you could take out all the sex and the main story would be intact. Sex doesn't become an integral part to maybe 7 or 8 when they visit a giant orgy house. It's like calling a book PIZZA but the main story is about a white dude managing his fortune-500 company and sometimes he orders out for pizza every now and then. I mean Sex Criminals is literally about people who have sex and then commit crimes.
What is the book really about then? Basically, it's like if Batman decided to stop being Batman and instead just wanted to be Bruce Wayne for awhile. And also had problems having sex. Sure that sounds like maybe and interesting premise for a Batman book, but with a superhero you don't know or care about, it sounds boring. Who cares about Bruce Wayne, right? And that's what most of the book is: boring. It's Simon Cooke learning how to be a good CEO and hang out with his lawyer friends. Man, I could be reading a book about a girl with a jetpack and you want me to read this? Probably my favorite parts are when it switches to a black character named Keenan who gets into fights and maybe is thinking about doing this whole superhero thing(also coincidence that I'm more interested in the black character? NOPE.).
I spent most of the book waiting for something interesting to happen and then I guess orgies? I mean there is sex happening in this book. There's orgies and prostitutes and blow-jobs and special massages, but it's all so unsatisfying and it doesn't feel like it's presented in a sex healthy way. Probably the strangest thing is a bunch of old ladies fucking this pudgy guy with strap-ons that I guess is supposed to be played for laughs? But like, why should I care? Am I supposed to laugh at older woman who still like to have sex or guys that enjoy getting fucked? That's not cool. The sex barely serves the story other than to have something exciting there, and if you're looking for sex maybe go watch porn. And if you're looking for healthy representations of sex in comics, maybe go look for actual great sex comics like Curvy or Smut Peddler or Chester 5000.
Most of the book involves: Simon moping around wishing he could be a normal dude, Simon wondering whether he should go back to superheroing, Simon not knowing how to sex good, and other characters doing slightly interesting things. And y'know, if this were a book about Simon's awakening into being into different types of sex, or realizing he's gay or bi whatnot, I would be ok with that. But so far, his big sex hang-up seems to be he can't get sexually excited unless he and/or the woman involved are in superhero costumes. All things considered, that's not that extreme? Right now in the real world we have teens who are seriously confused about their gender and sexuality, and you're redoing the Night Owl story from Watchmen. That's what this is. If you said, "hey I want to see more of Night Owl being awkward about only wanting to get hard when he's in costume" this is totally the book for you!
Ok ok, before I complain anymore, I should mention that I really, truly love the art style of this. It's the only reason I picked this book up. Sure the book is literally called SEX, but one look at the art in here and I said to myself "I've got to have this". It's a gorgeous book, and it's very reminiscent of the grungier style of 80's comics, thanks to the beautiful inking and linework of Kowalsky. And major props have to be given to the colorist Brad Simpson because the book looks like it's constantly taking place in a nightclub. I love how colorful it is, and how wild the colors get. I wish the story matched how vibrant and full of life the coloring in this book is!
I really want to like this book because I feel like there's an interesting premise here and interesting characters. Somewhere. It's a kind of a cool idea about superheroes and villains trying to be normal and exploring their sexuality. It's a fantastic idea to show a myriad of different people and groups having sex in various forms. But the main character here is boring and just like every straight white character we've ever seen, and they're not so much as exploring sexuality as rehashing every mainstream idea of sex we've already seen. There are gay characters and people of color in here, but their buried in all the white male power fantasies. Its a book that I want to be different and I want to live up to its name and it just doesn't. And more than anything, it is such a slog to get through. A painful, boring slog. Are they trying to say something about what they think sex is? Are they doing sex wrong???
THE GOOD: Beautiful art style, beautiful colors, kind of a cool idea?
THE BAD: Boring, straight white male with heteronormative sex hang-ups treated as something new and weird, not really about sex for a book called SEX.
THE VERDICT: $$ I am tempted to give it a pass for the art alone, but I can't imagine going through and actually reading this again. That just sounds awful. Do something different. Make it better. Do something more diverse. There are so many other better, more thrilling, more fun options out there for what this book is trying to do.
BOOKS LIKE IT: Five Ghosts, Satellite Sam
BOOKS BETTER THAN IT: Rat Queens, Sex Criminals, Curvy, Chester 5000, Smut Peddler
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: So there's a Joker analogue in this world, but he's a washed-up semi-hobo now and everyone hates him. Then he seduces this young women who doesn't know about him, and even though everyone tells her to stay away from him, she wants to go because he's so dangerous and cool and funny. They're about to have sex and there's this great build-up where you're expecting something horrible to happen to her, and then...they have sex and it's really unsatisfying. Also he shoots blanks. It's kind of hilarious but it's also kind of a metaphor for the whole book.