Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 03.06.2013 – Sex #1

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489
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Avg Rating: 3.8
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 2.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Joe Casey
Art by Piotr Kowalski

Size: 30 pages
Price: 2.99

You see, when two people love each other very much

Joe Casey’s latest is a penetrating look into

Simon Cooke was once a superhero. He gave his life for Saturn City. Every last drop of it. Sadly, the city never obliged by killing him.

Labeled the Armored Saint–a term which almost has to be shared with some form of penile iron maiden devised during the Inquisition–Cooke doggedly patrolled the rooftops as a force for good. Just as Giuliani once shooed the smut peddlers, hustlers and good time gals from the neighborhoods around the New Amsterdam to make way for Eisner’s Lion King, the Armored Saint swept the sleaze from Suffer Town and the Freiheit District. He believed in his work, looked down upon the avenues he’d made safer, found satisfaction in it. Saturn shone.

Then Quinn died. The old woman went to her grave with his secret and his promise. As she faded there in the hospital, Cooke agreed to shrug off his vigilante lifestyle and embrace something akin to normalcy, even if she couldn’t be there to enjoy it. He would do something she hadn’t seen him do since he’d turned 23. Simon Cooke promised to live.

If Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker was Joe Casey’s fanfare for the coming man, Sex may be a meditation on the ever-winding fuse. Sex is tension. Sex is sitting on your hands, lest something explode. Sex, it may shock you, is restraint. While there’s plenty of bumping and grinding to be had, one of the more striking visuals involves fingers grazing a windowsill. An instance of true reflection. To have dedicated a panel to that moment may actually have secured Sex its Pick of the Week status. Sex, as it turns out, is surprisingly contemplative.

It also make a strong play for Watchmen’s gauntlet, more compelling a response to Moore and Gibbons’ legacy than pretty much anything DC has attempted. That’s not to say Casey is vying for that venerable position. I don’t know that he could be bothered. Thematically, though, he’s poking and prodding at some fascinating dynamics Watchmen pioneered. Cooke has much in common with the latter day Nite Owl, though this guy may actually find even more difficulty finding an outlet and exorcising his impotence, especially if the Armored Saint costume truly is off the table. In retirement he takes comfort in a poetically perfect talisman: a jaw-breaker sized blue ball. He handles the thing in moments of stress, fetishistically. At the moment, the item and the habit register enigmatic, and it’s unclear whether the ball is emblematic of something supernatural or sexual or both. Or neither.

Cooke might also share a bit of Rorschach’s conservatism, blanching at the news that his seven month sabbatical from Saturn City led to the return of moral decay in its prone underbelly. On her deathbed, Quinn referred to Cooke’s sad, monk-like existence, painting a picture of a deeply repressed man fixated on sterilizing his city.

It should also be noted that Simon Cooke is lavishly wealthy, the reluctant figurehead of the Cooke Company. Unlike Bruce Wayne, Cooke has never been comfortable in his public persona, even pretending to be that shallow, carefree playboy. As with Watchmen, and maybe even more so, this is about life after hanging up the cape and how that can probably never, ever lead to happiness.

But the allusions to that iconic yellow book don’t end with the script.

If Piotr Kowalski’s reverence for Dave Gibbons isn’t immediately evident from the first panel, a turn of the page ought to crystalize it. As Cooke’s private helicopter shuttles us to the shores of Saturn City, those lines and colors explode a dam and memories of Watchmen pour forth. Moebius resides somewhere in the foundation of those seafoam spires or up above in that mustard sky, but it’s Gibbons’ name you’ll mistakenly cry out in the throes of reading. It’s a gorgeous book in its own right and Kowalski and colorist Brad Simpson do more than pay homage. It’s a book both titillating and somber, bright and dusky. Even the lettering transported me. Another highlight involves actual highlighting, some words or phrases emphasized with color highlights ranging from blue to green to orange and even a nearly imperceptible gray. I’m still trying to parse whether each color represents something, but even if it’s more arbitrary than that, the affectation adds a cool stylistic flare.

Sex is also more fun when you discover the capacity for an ensemble. Saturn City is inhabited. I’m particularly captivated by the aptly named Old Man and his goons. The scaly old coot describes a sudden, uncharacteristic world weariness to match his ghoulish appearance, suggesting a latent menace. Then there’s the haughty, club-hopping Alpha Brothers, two dapper young things feeding off the dregs by offering protection services. As for Annabelle, supplier of this month’s cliffhanger, I’m pretty eager to see how Cooke reacts to this reunion with another very significant woman from his past. And that of course brings us back to Quinn. Who was she and what was the nature of her relationship with Cooke? Casey thrust a whole world upon us, and we’re still fuzzy on the last names. That’s exciting.

Casey has suggested that this series will likely contain both more and less superhero and sex elements than readers might expect from the synopsis. I’ll vouch for that. All of it. As of this issue, the Armored Saint never appears, even in flashback. And while Cooke dutifully heads out to the red light district, his first outing as a sexual being is entirely passive. Even as a voyeur, he refrains from getting fresh. Suffice to say, there’s a significant sexual element to this story, a thread that includes some explicit imagery. But that’s not the sum total of what this is. Neither is it simply another deconstruction of the superhero. The selling point for me is that I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. I just know, hours later, I’m still basking in the afterglow.

Paul Montgomery
Will absolutely call you tomorrow. Yes.
paul@ifanboy.com

 


Comments

  1. Definitely my vote for the eisners this year, not joking either

  2. Thank you for making this POTW. I was on the fence with it, but by your description, its everything I was hoping it would be. I saw some panels and the color work looked amazing, and it did seem like a nod to Watchmen. Sounds great. I gotta get me a copy.

  3. Is this another book that won’t be available on iPads? I’ve looked via the ComiXology and the Image apps and it doesn’t seem to appear. Am I doing something wrong or is this ridiculous policy being applied?

  4. Oh this is gonna make for some fun times on the podcast.

    My LCS likes to put the comics in a brown paper bag….That fits for this book don’t ya think?

  5. Joe Casey really has a great imagination!

  6. Paul, I was really hoping you’d have brought up the courage to pick My Little Pony as your pick of the week(realized it is no longer in your pull list). Oh-well. Great review.

  7. Nothing like a good Montgomery Strikeout to get a chuckle out of me.

  8. tripleneck tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

    It sounds like you were able to infer a lot more about the background story of this comic than I was. And more power to ya, but for me, if you’re going to name a comic ‘Sex’ there better be an exciting event in the first issue otherwise I may not be coming back for a second issue. And I do get that repression of the urge may be the theme of the issue, but that’s too much of a double back strategy for me in a comic. If I want that kind of complexity, I prefer it in literature or film. Hitchcock knew how to illustrate this kind of thing well and keep it exciting, for instance.

    Now for the physical look of the book: I loved the art & coloring. Truly beautiful and I would like to see more. However, the lettering while very classy was difficult to read and the spot highlights on certain words were also an annoyance. Good dialogue doesn’t need that kind of indicator; it reads that way already.

    I may not make this my POW, but I’m happy to see it chosen because this book is smart and different.

  9. I was just hoping you’d bring this up on the show, but then you give it the pick. I was trying to put my finger on the other half of the art. I saw a lot of Sean Phillips in Kowalski’s art, just with a little thinner and cleaner line. Somehow didn’t see the Gibbons but you’re right on with that…

    I’m still not sure what kind of book this will ultimately be, but the backmatter stayed consistently entertaining as it was in “Butcher Baker” and as long as Joe keeps putting out Image stuff I’ll be there. Can’t wait to hear the discussion (or your monologue)…

  10. Very well written review as always Paul. I found the book to be solid. It definitely has me interested in getting the next issue before I make up my mind either way but it just didn’t blow me away like it did you.

    On a side note: Is this the lowest potw score from the community for a staff potw ever? Currently standing at only 0.1%.

  11. Intriguing! But has a line dropped out of the review, Paul – suddenly there’s a woman in par three named Quinn, and it reads as if we’re meant to have heard of her already.

  12. I didn’t read this. I considered it, but wasn’t sure it would be worth my money. I may wait to see what the other two iFanboys have to say about the issue on the podcast, but Paul’s review is pretty convincing.

    Saturn City sounds interesting. I like it when the city is more than simple background filler.

    And those strikethroughs were perfect.

  13. A really well-written review. I have to admit my first reaction, before reading Paul’s POTW, was a disappointed one. For all its beauty, ambiance and gorgeous environments, it didn’t seem much was actually *happening* on a straight-up narrative level.

    Paul, though, describes a level of depth that I missed the first time around and I’m going to give it another, more dedicated read tonight.

    However, I do wish that, as in the first issues of many great comic works, Casey had infused the story’s foundation with some visceral energy, or at least a certified, bonafide hook.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Thanks, LB. Honestly, it took me the second read-through to really appreciate this one. At first, it might seem a bit slight. But there’s a lot going on here. It’s rich, I think. Thoughtful and extremely well crafted. It might take the second issue for more readers to come around to it. So I look forward to that.

      I hate to…

      Well…

      It’s a grower, if not a show-er.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      And before anyone asks, no, I haven’t read the second issue. I may have gleaned a bit of insight from some of Casey’s interviews and the afterword, but otherwise I think it’s all on the page. Might need to simmer in it a bit. Then, mileage may vary.

  14. I was trying to crack what I thought was some intended code with the highlighted words.

  15. After a first read through I love the art but I’m not sold on the story (yet). Will pick up #2 as well as I always give Casey the benefit of the doubt. That said Daredevil: End of Days was my pick by a mile.

  16. This was an excellent new release from an impeccable company & Casey’s independent work is by far stronger than his mainstream stuff, but unfortunately there was two other great releases (for me) & one of them got my pick vote.

    Sorry!

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      No need to be sorry. What did you end up picking?

    • Rather boringly Avengers #7, mostly because I am a hugely biased Hickman fan & he’s totally giving me exactly what I want out of an Avengers title, big fantastical story-lines that will go a long, long way!

      Great review by the way Paul!

  17. Good pick

  18. Casey’s material has gotten a little thin and trippy of late, for my tastes. I’m glad he seems on point with this issue. Thanks for the write-up.

  19. I think this should have been a double sized first issue because this book felt limited by its own space, which makes no sense from a creator-owned comic. I know nothing more about this book than I did before I read it, and it all feels rather conventional to me actually. Nothing really hooked me. I might give it one more issue, maybe a second issue will make me see what other people saw in the first issue.

    Nice review though, I find myself liking your reviews more than the books themselves, even when I actually enjoy the books.

    • That’s not to say there’s nothing to like here though. I really liked the art and am intrigued by the world. I personally just needed more, I’m not even sure if I like it or not yet. I have no feelings yet.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Give it a couple reads. I was on the fence when I first finished the book as well, but I kept returning to it throughout the day. Partly because I was trying to find a Pick to write about, but also because I knew there was something more going on. There aren’t as many story beats as other books I read this week, but the few beats it did offer really resonated for me.

  20. It’s not a good sign when a review is more interesting than the comic, and that’s the case here. Clocking in at only 18 pages, I was bored by page 6 and never recovered. Even the sex scenes were boring. The art was boring. The colors were boring. We live in a time of Dave Stewart, Laura Martin, Paul Mounts, Dean White, etc. doing tremendous coloring. So why should I be impressed with something that is a throwback to the ugliest comics of the 1970’s and 80’s?

    Comics are a visual medium and there was little to look at. Nothing happened. I’ve grown tired of comic book writers who think the first issue of a new series is the first 18 or 22 pages of War and Peace. Or Moby Dick. Or Crime and Punishment. You want to write a novel? Go write a novel. But if you’re going to write a comic, do something to hook and intrigue and thrill and satisfy the reader. Yes…all that in 22 pages. Joe Casey has new ideas but he doesn’t always get them off the ground. Sex #1 was very intellectual and not the least bit engaging. By the last page I couldn’t think of a single reason why I would buy the next issue.

    And where is the next issue of Godland???

  21. Paul:
    You picked a book with smut in it! The guys picked you because you are a PERFECT fit. I’d like to think Ron would have picked this book too. In that alternative universe his review would probably have implored us to take another look at the masterfully detailed background art. 😉

    • Sometimes I miss Ron and his way of saying “Cock” and giggling. Especially when reviewing that Black (something) part 2 with the succubus.

  22. Paul: I thought I was the only one who watched Dinosaucers! It was late 80’s not 90’s. I refuse to revisit that due to fear of it not living up to the awesomeness that I remember. If someone has seen it recently, please tell me if it lives up.

  23. What a terrible week for comics.

  24. Funny story:
    I walk into my local shop, the owner says to me “Hey. Check this out. Don’t worry, it’s not what your think. The title has nothing to do with what’s in the book.” I look at the title and assume the guy knows my tastes after 9-10 years. I open the book, and… stare at two women in a rather…lets call it, racy…position, with multiple other close-up pics. I ask “Did you even read this?”. He says “Yeah, it was great…” then pauses as I turn the comic towards him and show him the..spread…”Oh. I should probably put this on the back shelf.”
    It was freakin helarious. The other people in the shop stood around laughing. I probably helped him sell 10 copies by pointing out what was no longer apparent to him.