Howard Chaykin’s “Black Kiss XXXMas In July Special” #1 is a nasty piece of work. It’s a revenge tale told over several decades fueled by the most amount of sex you’d think could take place in a comic book where there is still a coherent plot. You may discover a new sexual position. You may see lingerie styles you forgot were in fashion. You may learn to hate Yale. You will definitely see more full frontal nudity than in any other comic out this week. Since it’s a Howard Chaykin book, it looks fantastic and has the necessary grit and polish on the visuals needed to add mis en scene to what could be baseless filth in another creator’s hands.
One Christmas season in the early 20th future Broadway star Ilona Fontaine is handed to four Yale students to be their orgy victim by her father in exchange for tires and cash. Decades later, Ilona puts the wheels, pun intended, in motion to exact revenge on the men that raped her that night, starting with pulling off her father’s genitals and letting him bleed out in the alley behind the theater where she’s about to perform. Her plot takes decades to fully execute. Each chapter of the book takes place on or around the holiday, making each attacker pay through the use of sex as a weapon. When we visit each of the men through the years we see their corruption and entitlement have led them down some very dark paths – KKK membership, murder, pedophelia, mall Santa jobs. Along with her transgender partner Dagmar Ilona invites these men into sexual congress only to repeal their bills of health over and over.
The story is repetitive but purposefully so, much like regular sex, if there is such a thing. Chaykin repeats certain refrains to drive home the importance of the mission to the protagonist. He is fully aware of the type of story he is crafting. The killings are tongue-in-cheek but the inciting incident is never treated as such. Sexual violence is an intense subject that is typically handled very delicately but Chaykin pours gasoline on the fire to see what happens. Ilona burns a man on a cross, double crosses two prisoners, anally violates a man of the cloth with a cross, and murders Santa Craus. It’s good storytelling, well structured and well-paced. The draftsmanship is gorgeous, but it’s not for the faint of heart, stomach, mind, children, or several types of empathetic animals. This takes place in a very dark corner of the world where there are no redeeming figures, there is only you and your ability or inability to guard yourself against suffering. Having female and transgender protagonists aids slightly with the issues of gender norms in these scenarios but at the end of the day it’s still a story about violence and revenge. The difference is that the weapons aren’t big guns but big dongs. “Black Kiss XXXMas In July Special” is filthy, but competently so.