Content warning: SFSX Volume #1 contains graphic depictions of torture
SFSX Volume 1 is published by Image Comics, written by Tina Horn, art by Michael Dowling, Jen Hickman, and Alejandra Gutierrez, colors by Jen Hickman, Michael Dowling, and Chris O’Halloran, with letters by Steve Wands. In the future, everything to do with sexuality is policed, monitored, and controlled. This includes both sexual acts as well as how one identifies their sexuality. If you don’t conform to what The Party says, your purity score gets hit or worse. A low purity score means you can’t do things others can. If you are caught doing something really outside the party line, no one will ever see you again. The Party claims it is setting people free of their enslavement to their desires. That they are making everyone equal by removing the perceptions of sexual attraction. But, in the end, they are just trying to control everyone, just like every other authoritarian regime.
As I read through the introduction to SFSX Volume 1 I caught myself rolling my eyes a bit. The concept of a totalitarian regime trying to outlaw kink, forcing those who enjoy anything considered less than “pure” and godly to be driven underground lest they disappear to who knows where, felt a bit much. But then I remembered a recent town hall meeting I caught footage of where a woman claimed that wearing a face-covering to prevent the spread of a pandemic was in contradiction to “god’s law.” Yeah, maybe this scenario isn’t as far fetched as I’d like it to be.
So many things have happened in the last few years of my life that I didn’t think were possible. Armed with this realization, I took in SFSX Volume 1 with a different light. And while it’s easy to be distracted by the depictions of sex and all the leather and dildos, there is a serious message in these pages. While some people might be too uncomfortable with its trappings to see it, it’s definitely there.
The focus of SFSX Volume 1 revolves around a group of individuals who use to work at, or frequent, an underground establishment called The Dirty Mind. This establishment is an all-in-one brothel, porno theatre, strip club, and dungeon. If you wanted to experience it, The Dirty Mind could provide it until three years ago when it got shut down by The Party and the owner was dragged off, never to be seen again.
Fast forward three years and we see that a former employee, Avory, has spent the intervening years trying to lay low and fit in. She married one of her more frequent customers, George, and is trying to live a normal life. But “normal” is not what Avory really wants. Like anybody forced into a preconceived societal mold, she itches for what she really wants, what she lost.
SFSX Volume 1’s story picks up when George, while at his job at the Pleasure Center where the Party monitors people’s purity scores, accidentally sees something he shouldn’t. This lands him in a world of trouble that brings the authorities back to his home. When they discover the couple’s various sexual devices, they immediately attempt to arrest Avory. But through some quick thinking and luck, Avory manages to escape capture. With nowhere else to go, she turns to some of her friends from her previous life. She has to find a way to rescue her husband before The Party does some truly awful things to him.
And the depictions of The Party’s “reformation therapy” is the true stuff of nightmares. Both physical, as well as psychological torture, are implemented to break the victim of their undesired urges. These moments are definitely not for the faint of heart. By the end of SFSX Volume 1, the fact that the Party could claim anyone as perverted with the truly grotesque means they exert to control those who do not conform becomes the sickest of jokes.
Throughout the story of SFSX Volume 1, author Horn enhances her hard to read narrative with a cast of fully fleshed-out characters. Each character plays their part in the story perfectly. This is true for the members of The Dirty Mind, and their struggles with reuniting with Avory after years of estrangement, to the villains themselves as each shows their own motives and colors.
The art of SFSX Volume 1 is well suited to its narrative. Hard and gritty, it captures the moments with a stark frankness that never shies away from showing the reader exactly what is going on. This is true for both moments of pleasure as well as immeasurable pain. This bluntness makes the reader fully appreciate the characters and what they are going through.
The colors used in SFSX Volume 1 further create the atmospheres the story requires. Whether it’s the darkened corridors of The Dirty Mind or the overly sanitized halls of the Pleasure Center, the color scheme always fits the moment.
The last aspect of SFSX Volume 1 is Wand’s lettering. Wand delivers a great lettering job throughout this volume. Everything from the dialogue to sound effects is executed with skill, delivering the story in a clear and easy to follow manner.
As I walked away from SFSX Volume 1 I found myself with a lot more to think about than I had expected going into it. While many of the scenarios depicted in these pages certainly feel extreme, they nonetheless left me deeply uncomfortable. I have read enough history to understand how quickly a marginalized group can go from frowned upon to harassed to being “disappeared.” With instances of such disappearances being captured by cell phone vids happening all too frequently these days, it gives one pause.
Everyone needs to know they are safe in their own skin. To express themselves in a safe manner. Who or what they are shouldn’t be policed or forced to conform to an outside concept of “purity”. Things to think about as the world marches forward; things to keep an eye out for, lest the Party go from fiction to reality.
SFSX Volume 1 is available on July 22nd wherever comic books are sold.
SFSX Volume 1
SFSX Volume 1 delivers an uncomfortable narrative about the dangers of society pushing its concepts of normal upon those who embrace something different.