Monday, 30 December 2013

Sex, Book One: The Summer of Hard Review (Joe Casey, Piotr Kowalski)

What would happen if Bruce Wayne stopped being Batman - could he return to civilian life?

You wouldn’t know it from the cheap, attention-grabbing title, but that’s what Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s Sex is all about, and all it proves is what an unappealing storyline that is to pursue.

Simon Cooke is a billionaire playboy who runs a global company and is secretly the superhero vigilante, Armored Saint, protecting Saturn City from criminals like Prank Addict and Shadow Lynx. Annabelle LaGravenese is Shadow Lynx, a cat-like burglar with goggles who frequently tangles with Armored Saint. But when Simon’s close friend Quinn asks him, on her death bed, to leave the vigilante nonsense behind and find happiness in a real life, Simon finds it hard adjusting to what most people term a normal life - sleeping during the night, working a job, having friends and a sexual partner.

While the premise sounds like Casey has some subversive ideas on the Dark Knight, after reading Book One, I can tell you that Casey doesn’t have anything at all to say about Batman, Catwoman, etc. His Batman is somewhat resistant to sex because his many years spent living his alternative lifestyle and muses that his real identity might’ve been behind the mask than without it. Yawn. I’m sorry but that’s a pathetic observation that’s been made numerous times before. Casey’s Catwoman has eye problems after wearing a mask that incorporated super night vision goggles. Oh, and Casey borrows Frank Miller’s idea of Catwoman running a brothel. That’s it?! His Joker character lives through the news clippings of the past and has the worst villain name ever - Prank Addict (though to be fair Armored Saint and Shadow Lynx are equally shite).

There’s precious little of any real substance to justify the eight issue length of this first book. That’s a longer-than-usual amount of issues for the first collected edition in a series and really there should be much more here than those lame character observations but there really isn’t. Maybe Casey’s spending the extra pages to world build? Well, there is a lot of sex depicted in this book (and it’s all full frontal so this one isn’t for kids) but Saturn City isn’t a place that’s any more saturated with sex than any city in our world and besides that it looks identical to every other Western city, so no, Casey’s not world building, he’s just wasting time.

And despite the brazen title and frequent, often gratuitous and pointless nudity, this isn’t a shocking book. It doesn’t have any brilliant ideas and it’s characters aren’t interesting. There’s certainly no plot besides watching Simon sit through numerous business meetings. And this is why Batman works better than this - we read Batman because of his awesome adventures; we don’t give a fuck about his life as Bruce Wayne, who has to sit in on business meetings every now and then. Take away the Batman aspect and you’re left with a businessman going to meetings - in other words, fucking boring comics!

Also I don’t care about Simon or anyone in this book. He’s a one-dimensional dweeb who lives in luxury and doesn’t want to do it with any of the gorgeous high-end call girls throwing themselves at him because he’s just not there yet mentally. Why would anyone care about this guy if that’s the (non)dilemma? Can anyone relate?!

There’s some side stuff featuring supporting characters where a old man gangster, creatively called Old Man, is doing something evil, and a dishwasher who’s secretly a martial arts expert/hacker who’s messing with a pair of homosexual gangsters, but nothing you could call a plot. I suppose with the inclusions of these crimes and Simon’s dithering lack of direction as a civilian, it’s pointing to the conclusion that he’ll (sigh) once more don the Armored Saint uniform? Whatever. I’m not going to read Book Two to find out.

Piotr Kowalski’s art is damned good throughout and his covers are stunning, showing an imagination lacking in Casey’s script. The pull-back shots of Saturn City are really pretty and gives the story a strong sense of grounding and atmosphere, and the characters’ facial expressions are very evocative that express moments of comedy or conflict perfectly on their own. Brad Simpson’s colours are brightly colourful and exciting, making the pages pop in sharp contrast to dark Batman comics, particularly the Batman: Black and White comics.

In comparing this book to Batman I’m actually making it seem more interesting than it is - really it’s the lamest facsimile of Batman coupled with the third act of Eyes Wide Shut, both minus the masks and the interest. Sex features a collection of cardboard cutouts apparently doing something in between scenes of sex acts. If that sounds appealing, as well as a sequence where “Catwoman” masturbates to the memory of being chased by “Batman” across the “Gotham City” skyline, then Sex is for you. Otherwise I’d say this is the one time it’d be safe to avoid Sex.

SEX Volume 1: Summer of Hard

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