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Ecce libri cum picturis: The Bounce #1 and Sex #3

by  in Comic News Comment

“Slip and slide in your wet delight, feel the blood flow / Not too fast, don’t be slow, my love’s in your hands”

Joe Casey has two comicbooks out this week, and I figured it would be a good time to check them out. One, of course, is on its third issue, but that’s the way it is, innit?



Sex #3 is by Mr. Casey, who wrote it, Piotr Kowalski, who drew it, Nate Simpson, who colored it, and Rus Wooton, who lettered it.

First, obviously, is that wonderful cover. It’s a wraparound one, so here’s the complete one:




It’s pretty keen, ain’t it? The overlapping letters, with the middle bar of the “E” intersecting the diagonal stroke of the “X” put us quickly in mind of intercourse, which of course is kind of the point. The red-drenched cover is wonderfully evocative; red is the “hottest” color and also puts us in mind of sweaty, sticky, nasty stuff.


The “X” is encompassing Annabelle LaGravenese, focusing our eyes inward to the empty space right next to her, and her presence on the right side of the cover and the blue column on the left balances the drawing nicely. The right side of the “X” describes the flow of her body, too, leading us down to the title of the book with a pitstop at the gas mask. Why a gas mask? Beats me – it doesn’t come up in this issue. She’s toasting, as we can see, but Kowalski balances that with the empty space on the left side of the wraparound cover, implying that she wants someone to be there but that someone is missing (which is in the issue, too). The red negative space of her dress is amazing, making her both sexier and more ethereal, and Kowalski gives her just enough lift on her hair to imply a breeze blowing through the room, which makes it a bit more wistful and romantic. It’s a tremendous cover.

The actual story is called “Foreplay/Long Time,” which is clever because it fits the issue but is also the name of a famous Boston song, so kudos to Mr. Casey. Pop culture callbacks occasionally feel forced, but this one doesn’t. The issue features what we’ve come to expect from Sex after two issues – Simon Cooke, retired superhero, is trying to fit in as CEO of his company, but he doesn’t seem really engaged (Casey uses the word “disinterested,” but as an extremely annoying English major, I’d like to point out the word he wants is “uninterested” – yes, there is a difference) and people aren’t happy about it. He continues to flash back to his time as a superhero, as the woman – Quinn – who used to tend to his wounds sounds a lot like the woman – Larry – who works with him in his company and isn’t happy about how he’s running it.


Later, he talks to Warren, his lawyer, and he gets around to what many superheroes seem to feel – that “Simon Cooke” is the mask and the superhero identity – in this case, the Armored Saint – is the real person. Warren seems to take this as a massive insult, but it gets back to Cooke’s feelings about being a superhero and how he hasn’t gotten the itch out of his system. He still wants to “save” the city, but he’s unsure how to go about that. It’s hard to get a sense of what Casey is going for here – this is pretty standard stuff when it comes to superheroes, and it’s not really clear yet what Casey is trying to do. Simon Cooke is kind of a boring character so far, so it’s not easy to get into his problems. Casey does make an interesting point when Warren tells Simon, “You can just, I dunno, pick up where you left off,” because Simon points out that he never really got started – his childhood was cut short and he became a hero, which precluded a “normal” life. The idea of someone trying to live a “normal” life when they don’t know how is not a bad theme to work with, and Casey’s smart enough to pull it off, but he’s taking his time getting there, and Cooke is still not a great character yet.

Casey is stirring the plot in other places, too. The mysterious dude, Keenan, has an iPad with some “valuable information” on it, so he obviously has plans to get rich quick. Dolph and Cha Cha, the two odd criminals we’ve seen in the first two issues, punish the person who allowed Keenan to steal the “information,” and they’re fairly typical Casey characters in that they’re far more concerned with outward appearances than your usual bad guys. And Casey checks in on the “Old Man,” the cranky old gangster who loves the fact that Simon Cooke is no longer patrolling the streets. The Old Man does some evil gangster things, and it’s obvious that Casey is just setting up some stories at this point.

But what about the sex, man! The book is called SEX, for crying out loud! Well, Keenan does the nasty with his girl, and later, Annabelle masturbates with a sex toy while Simon is talking to Warren (in a different location – the panels cut back and forth).


Interspersed with that is Simon flashing back to fighting her in her villain garb when he was a superhero, and Casey is not terribly subtle about the whole thing (apparently neither Simon nor Annabelle has found anything equal to the sexual thrill of the superhero chase). But that’s okay. So far the sex part of the book is the least interesting part of the book, because it seems like Casey is simply saying, “Hey, people have sex. Here they are!” I mean, that’s fine and all, but it’s not really that interesting – we kind of inherently know that about characters in fiction unless we’re specifically told they’re not. I mean, we can even figure out that Bruce Wayne gets busy every once in a while, but he does seem like a sexual camel on occasion. So the fact that Sex is about, well, sex doesn’t necessarily make it something, you know, good. Casey himself has drenched a lot of his superhero work in sex – both explicit and implicit – for years, so it’s not like he’s doing something radical even for him. So Sex remains a bit of an enigma on the story side, because it’s unclear what Casey is going for.

Kowalski and Simpson, however, are doing a fine job. Kowalski is a solid artist, and he’s asked to draw a lot of detailed work, and he’s certainly up to it. He’s at home in the corporate offices of The Cooke Company, and he’s shown that he could handle the superhero action that will presumably occur at some point in this book (whether because Cooke goes back to it or because we see more of it in flashback).


He draws the Alpha Brothers well, too – they’re described as “ambiguous” in the roster at the beginning of the book, and Kowalski is good at their “look” and their body language to make them just that – they’re obviously tough guys, but they take care of their appearance and their clothing. Kowalski also draws good O-faces, which I suppose is important in a book like this. Simpson, meanwhile, is still doing a very nice job on the coloring of the book. He uses red and blue to good effect, linking the heat of anger on Larry’s face when she yells at Cooke to the sex act, using red in both instances. It’s not that subtle, but it’s still appreciated. Of course, when Simon and Warren are talking, he uses blue to show their cooling relationship and also to offset the red he uses as Annabelle masturbates. The very idea of using more primary colors for the book helps the “unreality” of it stand out a bit more, as Casey is contrasting the “realistic” take on superheroes that we often see with the more reasonable idea that they’re pretty fantastical. Even when Cooke is doing something mundane like sitting in a board meeting, Simpson makes sure to get the tone right and keep it from being too “realistic.” I still don’t like Rus Wooton’s letters, but they also contribute to the tone of the book, which is why, I assume, he does them the way he does.

So Sex hasn’t quite clicked yet, but I have grown to trust Casey, so I’m on board for a while. Whether the book gets better … well, I’ll just have to wait and see.


Meanwhile, Casey’s other superhero comic, The Bounce, shipped its first issue this week. David Messina draws and is the “color supervisor” on this book, Giovanna Niro is the colorist, and Rus Wooton once again letters it.


In this issue, we’re introduced to Jasper Jenkins, a pot-smoking slacker (the first page, in fact, shows him lighting a bong) who’s hanging out watching television. His friend, Terry, shows up and tells him he’s wasting his life, but then he indulges too, and while he’s sucking down some smoke, Jasper disappears. What happened to him? Well, he saw a story on the news (the television watching was important!) about the police chief and his family being held hostage, and Jasper is … a superhero! He’s the dude on the cover, who may or may not be called The Bounce – he never uses a superhero name in the book, but he does bounce around, so that’s apparently his superpower. He fights the bad guy, The Crunch, but the bad guy kills the police chief and so the cops aren’t sure that Jasper is really a good guy. The classic superhero dilemma! Then the book gets weird.

You see, Casey introduces a dude named The Darling, who eats small lizards (?) and has built some bizarre machine that he claims will revolutionize warfare, so he’s selling it to some shady military types. Then Jasper meets a strange drug dealer at a club who somehow transports him … someplace. Someplace with a lot of superheroes and Benday dots. And some dude who seems to know Jasper. It’s all very odd. But it’s not a bad way to begin a series, because Casey just chucks us right in – I mean, Jasper is already a superhero, so we don’t have to page through an origin story, and there are enough oddball elements that Casey is right at home with. Casey is good at concepts, and The Bounce is full of them, but he’s also able to sketch a character pretty well in short, broad strokes.


Jasper and the others don’t have a ton of depth after just 20 pages, but that’s okay – the bare bones are there, and Casey’s usually pretty good about adding flesh.

Messina and Niro do a fine job with the artwork – it’s kind of a bit of Terry Dodson, which is never a bad thing in my opinion. The digital coloring, with its shading rather than stark contrast, is never – probably – going to be my cup of tea, but Niro uses both techniques enough to show some nice contrast, and the scene in the club at the end as Jasper slips someplace else is very nice, as the colors work well with the strong pencils. Messina has some nice design work when whatever happens to Jasper happens, and his brief fight with The Crunch is done well, too. There are a lot of white guys in the book, and Messina isn’t great at making them look all that different, but they tend to have different hair styles, so maybe that will work. I’m going to imagine that the style of art in the main part of the book will be contrasted with wherever Jasper ends up, as it looks slightly harder-edged than Jasper’s point of origin, but we’ll see about that later.

Both Sex and The Bounce are $2.99, and they’re both available now. Well, they’re available in print editions – who knows what’s going on with ComiXology and Apple these days, but I guess you can get them digitally as well!

Rating (Sex #3): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Rating (The Bounce #1): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆