SEX #6/Story by JOE CASEY/Art by PIOTR KOWALSKI/Colors by BRAD SIMPSON/Letters by RUS WOOTEN/Graphic Design by SONIA HARRIS/Published by IMAGE COMICS
Any good story, no matter the medium or genre, should be structured around an engaging cast of characters and an intriguing conflict. Once these basic points are established the comic book writer has to work on both a micro and macro scale to maintain a constant connection with the character and conflict development and move the story forward. In Sex #6, it unfortunately feels like Joe Casey has stuck the story in a foggy swamp.
By sacrificing large-scale clarity for individual character development there could be difficult for a reader to become intrigued by a larger conflict in the story. The entire structure of the book jumps from one of five characters as they seemingly go about their everyday business.
Simon Cooke, the apparent protagonist of the comic is seen meeting with the mayor of Saturn City on a ferry. They discuss the class system in Saturn City and hint at a partnership between the city and Cooke’s business. In this scenario, the dialogue is sharp and intelligent, yet Casey forgoes any deep revelations about Saturn City’s political and economic atmosphere to remain in the moment. This development structure is disappointing because it doesn’t connect the panels to any larger conflict.
When Casey transitions to different characters, the same sense that the story is bogged down in a micro-universe that surrounds the character is present. Luckily, in previous issues it has been established that the Old Man is a villain, which helps move the conflict along well.
Casey segues into a disturbing and violent scene where the Old Man is having one of his goons, fashioned in Gimp-style bondage, sodomizes an informant for not finding out enough information. While it is clear the Old Man is a power hungry sociopath from previous development, the scene doesn’t forward that development. It keeps the character’s motivations and action stagnant, and actually serves to make him seem absurd. The absurdity of the dialogue during this scene goes a long way in derailing the character development. The fact that the Old Man tells the informant to “dig deep” as he’s being raped is an ineffective attempt at being dark and doesn’t provide anything developmentally significant to the villain.
The most interesting characters out of Casey’s menagerie ends up being Annabelle Lagravenese and Keenan Wade. Each character gets only a small part of the scattered development throughout the issue, but those few short pages build on the characters’ past and present. As a former vigilante, Annabelle deals with the repercussions of using experimental technology to enhance her eyesight, while Keenan finds forward momentum in his quest to be a vigilante as he his recruited into a reforming street gang. These two segments end up acting as bookends to each other as Casey develops how one character deals with a past experience and another tries to insert himself into that same lifestyle. It is unfortunate though that these brief moments of character and conflict development are too brief to rescue the issue from the bog of juvenile innuendo and hidden agendas.
The highest point for this issue is Piotr Kowalski’s art. He has a keen eye for miniscule detail that makes his portrayal of Saturn City come alive. At the opening of the book there are several panels of Saturn City’s landscape that are awe-inspiring. The way he constructs each building on the Saturn City horizon, from each window to the glimmer of the sun of the buildings’ edges, creates an immersive environment. That attention to detail also pulls the reader into each separate atmosphere of the story. Where the detail of the city is intense, Kowalski knows when to leave a background empty. The backgrounds during Annabelle’s portion of the issue are sparse and, at times, completely devoid of detail. This helps emphasize the emotional development more than anything else. Without Kowalski’s art, Sex #6 would be completely disappointing.
By employing haphazardly thin development for a fairly large cast of characters, Casey forces the reader to be patient and wait for any signs of a payoff until he’s ready to reveal the details. If Casey’s intention is to create a comic where the whole is greater than its parts this issue may be more significant. However, to know that would require hindsight. On a small scale the development of Sex #6 is disappointing.