Review: Sex #12 – Colorful Conflicts
While not as dramatically poignant as the last issue, the latest installment of Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s Sex might have actually been one of the series most action packed chapters yet. The crisp and beautifully thematic colors continued to act as an excellent storytelling device in conveying a variety of different tonal shifts. The detailed shading and line work stood out significantly as well, as did the nuances of the facial features and the simple yet complex and fully realized setting. Plotwise, the issue has essentially five threads, two of which are the culmination of conflicts set in motion precisely at the end of the last issue, one is something of a mild aftermath and a longform set-up, and the remaining two appear to be set up for immediate fast paced action for the next issue.
There might have been points during the first arc where things were a bit ambiguous, but at this point in the game we have a feel for exactly what it is each of these character’s wants and what they’re about. The three-adjective descriptions of each character at the start of the issue would make such things clear for new readers in an effective manner as well, but the layering and continued growth of all of these characters is part of what makes Sex so great. The reader is never given too much at one time, but always enough to be satisfied and feel as though new things are happening and new things are being learnt about the characters.
The two primary conflicts, one a somewhat rough violent encounter, the other, an even rougher sexual encounter, both occur simultaneously in the book, panels jarringly intercut and featuring clashing colors, and both seemingly leading to unfortunate fates for the underdog in each. While, SPOILER, the eventual triumph in the brawl was to be expected, Casey pulled off a fascinating double role reversal by providing a mental triumph for the victim in the second encounter as well. The brawl was conveyed primarily with bright red and yellow, with the blood interestingly appearing to be black. The colors lend themselves well to the energetic and pulse pounding action, which was paced and portrayed in a very clear and easy to follow manner. It might have been one of the most frenetic scenes in the series. The sexual conflict, on the other hand, was done almost exclusively in shades of green and black, and it was without a doubt the more disturbing and thematically dark portion of the entire issue. The only serious color exception, which was really difficult to notice initially, was the subtle usage of a bluish-purplish color for two facial features, at the start of the scene and towards the end. Initially, the color could be noticed in the victims mouth, and later, in a first seen glint in the captor’s eye. I could be reading into things, but I perceived that as a shift in the displayed weakness of each character.
In terms of the other three story arcs, none were as exciting as the two at the heart of the story, but its not like they were meant to be. Blue seemed to have been used as a transitional colors, allowing characters to wallow in it somewhat confused or melancholy before transitioning into more active moments, whether its dealing with/helping out potential new threats, or a tired protagonist trying and failing to explain himself before a passionate moment with his lover. The orange backdrop quickly segues right into the purple hued scene of their lovemaking. The colors get steadily redder as their passion heats up, and after a return to the combat red we last see the two of them back in the blue state as they go to bed. And now I can say I’ve broken down the color’s used to portray the emotional beats of a sex scene in a comic. But in all seriousness, it was beautifully composed, like everything in this book.
The final pages feature some normal-ish set up pages done with some striking blues and yellows, perhaps to convey a static but burgeoning build-up, an even more normally colored page(though it does employ a single red hued panel at a perfect moment), and a final blue page that ends with a killer set-up on a black back drop that could make for an interesting confrontation next issue.
If you’re interested in a book that’s composed beautifully both visually and conceptually, look no further than the graphic superhero deconstruction tale that is Sex. Casey’s column in the back, “Dirty Talk”, happens to be consistently fantastic as well.