Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

BSFA Review – Vector #280

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You are about to read a dirty word but please don’t turn the page, I promise it is only a passing reference. So, the Hugos… wasn’t that a great shortlist for Best Graphic Story? Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate and three Image titles: Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass And Sorcery, Saga Volume 3 and Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick. After years of being an embarrassment, Best Graphic Story is now the least embarrassing shortlist on the ballot.

Whilst I was waiting for Image to release the second collected volume of Sex Criminals, I came across another one of their titles in a local charity shop. As it were. If Sex Criminals is an attention grabbing name, Sex: Summer Of Hard is about as subtle as an erect penis waggling in your face. However, the nakedness of its name does not immediately live up to expectations. Instead we have the first volume of a comic that appears to be asking the question, what would happen if Bruce Wayne hung up his cowl?

Simon Cooke is a 35 year old billionaire playboy. Up until seven months ago, he was also the Armored Saint. As is traditional, this superhero alter-ego was motivated not by inequality or poverty but rather the “complete and utter decadence” of the city. Did I mention that he is blond?

Having promised his Alfred figure that he will quit his night job, Cooke returns to Saturn City in order to begin running the family business. As you can imagine, the hard-working professionals who actually run the global company are thrilled. After a hard day doing nothing, Cooke decides to unwind by heading to an exclusive brothel. One which just happens to be owned by one of his ex-nemeses, Annabelle Lagravenese AKA supervillian Shadow Lynx AKA his ultimate unrequited crush. She is as incredulous as the reader:

Guess I’ll just have to take your word for it that you’re not here on some sort of bizarre reconnaissance mission…
Of course, that opens up an even more interesting possibility…
…your curious, aren’t you?
Not that I blame you. The way you were living, it stands to reason that once you hung up the helmet, the psychological floodgates would open up, big time…

Battle through all that highlighter pen – heavy handily and repetitively used throughout the book’s dialogue to convey emphasis – and you find that the comic is really answering another question: what if Bruce Wayne was a virgin?

It is certainly a novel premise but not exactly one the world has been calling out for. “Do you know how many times I’ve played drunk?” Cooke says to his lawyer at one point. The implication that he’s being playing the playboy seems to extend to the Playboy models seen on his arm. His lawyer encourages him to live the life for real: “Imagine if Tinto Brass made a film about Saturn City.” This drinking binge climaxes in a bizarre scene in which the wasted pair suddenly become irresistible to women. Of course they do.

Alongside this we get a lurid, conventional superhero story starring Cooke’s Robin figure, Keenan, who has now taken up the mantle. This comes complete with grotesque geriatric kingpin, one minute having sex with a prostitute and shooting her in the back of the head at the point of orgasm, the next pulling all a man’s teeth out and having him raped by a Pulp Fiction-style gimp. “The kind of stuff we used to get from Preacher,” notes a cover. This is intended as praise but instead is true in the sense it is primitive, adolescent schlock. As so often happens with comics, the conservative is presented as the subversive.

When Sex isn’t being offensive, it is being silly or just dull. It lacks all of the wit and subtly of its near namesake Sex Criminals. Which is a shame because superhero suppression is clearly fertile territory in which to sow a psychodrama but Joe Casey’s writing buries this potential and Piotr Kowalski’s newspaper strip-style artwork tramps down the soil. Instead we get Frank Miller’s take on Eyes Wide Shut which is every bit as unappealing as it sounds.

I’m surprised the Puppies didn’t nominate it for a Hugo.

Reviews

  • Stay by John Clute (Beccon Press, 2014) – Reviewed by Paul Graham Raven

  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Sceptre, 2014) – Reviewed by Anthony Nanson

  • The Best British Fantasy 2014, edited by Steve Haynes (Salt Publishing, 2014) and Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One, edited by Laird Barron and Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications, 2014) – Reviewed by David Hebblethwaite

  • The Way Inn by Will Wiles (Fourth Estate, 2015) – Review by Gary Dalkin
  • The Peripheral by William Gibson (Viking, 2014) – Reviewed by Kerry Dodd
  • Langue[dot]doc 1305 by Gillian Polack (Satalye Publishing, 2014) – Reviewed by Shana Worthen
  • Saint Rebor by Adam Roberts (NewCon Press, 2015) – Reviewed by Ian Watson
  • The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord (Jo Fletcher Books, 2014) – Reviewed by Sandra Unerman
  • The Grasshopper’s Child by Gwyneth Jones (TJoy Books UK, 2014) – Review by Ian Sales
  • The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (Tor UK, 2015) – Reviewed by Cherith Baldry

  • Folk’d by Laurence Donaghy (Blackstaff Press, 2013) – Reviewed by Susan Oke

  • The Good Shabti by Robert Sharp (Jurassic London, 2015) – Review by Gary Dalkin

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Written by Martin

1 July 2015 at 17:01

Posted in sf

Tagged with , ,

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