Sex #1 by Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: March 6, 2013
Joe Casey’s Sex is an old story dressed up in new clothes. After a self-imposed exile, billionaire playboy and secret superhero Simon Cooke returns to his hometown of Saturn City. Everyone, from the employees of his family’s company to the underworld kingpins vying for power, has felt his absence. Now torn between a city on the brink and a promise to put his vigilante days behind him, Cooke must decide whether to take up his old mantle or bury it forever.
If this narrative sounds familiar, it is. Sex sticks so close to the mechanics of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns that Casey owes Frank Miller a royalty check. But where Miller’s works can be gratuitously violent, Casey takes a different route: amping up the pornographic imagery to add some visual overload to a trite plot. Although the racy scenes don’t appear until the end of this first issue, they’re still so over the top that they border on absurd.
Excessive sexual imagery isn’t bad, per se, but needs to serve some purpose in its native story past superficial titillation. But the graphically-depicted coupling between two peep show performers in this first issue (the only actual instance of sex in Sex) seems to exist simply to provoke. It suggests nothing about Cooke as a character, nor does it further the plot. The scene is pointless and lewd without being interesting.
That excess is matched in the lettering, which uses highlighting to emphasize particular passages, instead of the standard bold. The aesthetic matches the neon world of Saturn City, but comes across as cheesy; speech bathed in hot pink isn’t the most effective way to show that a person is shouting.
At least the art isn’t hyperbolic. Piotr Kowalski’s realist style nicely depicts the futuristic Saturn City, with its impossibly high buildings and dirty slums. The city itself isn’t novel – it looks like a thousand others from sci-fi comics – but it’s done well, and looks impressive.
Sex isn’t entirely without merit. Casey sets up his world well, and the characters, who don’t necessarily break any new ground, hold enough potential that they could turn this title into an engaging series that transcends its one-note debauchery.