COMIC BOOK REVIEW: SEXCASTLE / AUTHOR: KYLE STARKS / ARTIST: KYLE STARKS / PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 18TH
Shane Sexcastle is the toughest, meanest sonuvabitch ever to walk god's green earth. Upon his release from prison, for a totally justifiable crime, he's decided that it might be time, after a life of murder and mayhem, to try a different path. Now, if only the local thugs of the town of Bradley, past romances, grudge holding assassins, ineffectual villains and their peacocks would just leave him to it!
Sexcastle might sound like a so-bad-it's-good action flick from the ‘80's or ‘90's, but the joy of this debut graphic novel from webcomic writer and artist Kyle Starks is it's an explicit love letter to that style of filmmaking that gets all the details right whilst puncturing them with humour and adding quite a bit of genuine feeling at the same time. From the off, Sexcastle's extraordinary meanness is affirmed to a ridiculous extent over and over again, via references to his badass past and extreme displays of prowess, but this is nicely contrasted with his desire for change and, given his previous profession, his somewhat unusual new career choice. Like any retired hero who just wants a quiet life, Sexcastle is inevitably drawn back into his violent ways, but this time with hilarious results.
Starks clearly references the action flick oeuvre of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Seagal, etc., both thematically and visually, and Sexcastle dances elegantly along the line separating paying homage to those "classics" and parodying them. He never outright mocks them, instead taking the tropes of the genre and using them, sometimes untouched, sometimes spun on their heads, and sometimes he has Sexcastle utterly destroy them with a well timed kick, an exquisitely timed insult or through some excellent use of vulgarity.
Starks' style is simple but full of fun details, clarity and character, with nicely choreographed action sections. Hell, even the sound effects can generate a chortle, with one character noticeably getting "Ong Bak'd" in the face. That's not to say that it's all jokes. Beneath its bloodied exterior there are plenty of heartfelt character beats and disarmingly normal touching moments.
It's no wonder that well known comics writer Matt Fraction has been heaping praise on Sexcastle; Shane may not go romping around the multiverse but he definitely shares some of his swagger and DNA with Fraction's creation Casanova Quinn.
Sexcastle is a must buy for fans of ‘80's action movies. If it sounds like the book might tickle your fancy even just a little bit, then it most definitely WILL do so... and HARD...IN THE FACE!
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