By Scott Southard. Throughout history there have been perceptively small entities that pop up to twist or otherwise disrupt the status quo. Bands like MC5 or Bikini Kill, writers like Joan Didion or Rolan Barthes, films from Stan Brakhage or Chris Marker. These are all people who never broke into mainstream superstardom but forced a change in their respective fields anyway. Essentially, they are the unsung mineshaft canaries who warned of change and brought it about in new and exciting directions.
It seems as if we’re watching such a watershed moment occur right in front of us, as AfterShock keeps its output rolling with inSEXts, a series we’ve had our eye on for quite a while. With this inevitably divisive title, the new imprint is showing its hand, making a statement that it isn’t afraid to publish content that progressively pushes boundaries, makes political statements, and freaks out the old guard.
It would be easy to pigeonhole inSEXts into half a dozen subcategories, but that’s missing the point. This is no mere queer zine or feminist flipbook; it is a full-fledged title with the heart and resources behind it (and the apparent drive and go ahead to be as explicit as necessary) to truly examine its ideas. We’re looking at a no-holds-barred title from a brand new publisher out to make a splash. The time is ripe for a paradigm shift, and the modernization this industry desperately needs. inSEXts seeks to do precisely this.
But there’s a literary-mindedness to the sexy and/or violent dramatics at play in this debut issue. Titled “Chrysalis,” the introduction meditates heavily on metamorphosis, using existentialist butterfly imagery to drive home the symbolism of transformation and the cycles of life. A great strength of inSEXts is its ability to wrap its themes together tightly, ruminating on the concepts and tying them to each other and the greater central narrative. We see flippant visuals of bugs, dialogical expressions of transformation, and even a literal, physical example of a human born from an insect egg. Without being too heavy handed (although, that’s kind of the strong suit of the medium, no?), inSEXts floods the reader’s senses with bugs, one way or another.
There’s still room for growth, as we have only really been introduced to the two main characters with little awareness of where they’re heading next. The extent of their supernatural abilities is uncertain, and so is the inner-workings of the rest of the world in which they live. inSEXts #2 will have to fill in a lot of the narrative gaps (and instill some heftier stakes) to get the story moving beyond its conceit.
The most important thing to glean from this is that the tone of the series is set, and it comes barbed and angry. inSEXts is a declaration of intent, not just for the inventive creators behind the series, or even for AfterShock Comics, but for the medium as a whole. It outlines the possibilities of what we can do with words, pictures, and panels. inSEXts is on the cusp of some serious innovation, but we’ll just have to wait to see where it all goes from here.
Written by Marguerite Bennett.
Art by Ariela Kristantina.
Colors by Bryan Valenza.
Letters by A Larger World.
8 out of 10