A Graphic Novel by Kyle Starks
Review by Joey Braccino
STINKY: You ever hear the phrase ‘you brought a knife to a gun fight?’
SEXCASTLE: This is worse than that. You brought a YOU to a ME fight.
Sexcastle is one crazy comic book. Explosions, cusswords, nunchakus, gardening, peacocks—this book has it all and then some. I mean, look at the solicit from Image and tell me you’re not just the eensy weensy bit tickled:
“The Former World’s Greatest Assassin leaves the world of killing to a small town only to be pulled back in. An exciting action romp in the style of classic ’80s Action Film.”
That’s literally the entirety of this book. Creator Kyle Starks and Image aren’t f**king around here—just like those classic ‘80s Action films, what you get is what you see: faux-moodiness, clichéd dialogue, excessive violence, and as convoluted a plot as you can possibly imagine.
Of course, it’s not the ‘80s anymore—it’s 2015, duh—so we’re in post-modern, send-up, pseudo-parody mode.
And it’s wonderful.
Sexcastle does for revenge-driven ‘80s action films what Kill Bill does for ‘70s era kung fu/exploitation films. It’s clever and self-aware to the point that all of the more unbearable elements of those ‘80s films that inspire it—sexism, racism, shoddy characterization, sensationalism, etc.—become satirical fodder for the creator. Add in Starks’ distinct cartooning style (I kept thinking back to those classic Kate Beaton Hark! A Vagrant webcomics), and you have a distinctly funny send-up of the macho-action narrative. Starks cartoon allusions to Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mr. T late in the book elicit laughter as well as awareness from the reader, which speaks to his distinct storytelling capacity.
The story, as the solicit suggests, is straightforward: Shane Sexcastle—the World’s Greatest Assassin and a person that was “born mean” and looks like Snake Plissken—is released from prison and tries to settle down in a small town called Bradley. There, despite his best efforts to remain restrained, he runs afoul of the megalomaniacal mayor and his band of goons. The mayor hires the rest of the Assassin’s Guild to take out Sexcastle and hilarity ensues. Mix in the single mom and wide-eyed son and you’ve got your ‘80s plot to a tee. Sexcastle struggles with his true nature and his hopes for a peaceful life while ripping out people’s arms, avenging dead lovers, and f**king up everyone in his way.
BUY. Sexcastle is a spectacular graphic novel from cartoonist and creator Kyle Starks. The dialogue is delightfully stark (pun intended! Zing!); the illustration is unexpectedly fun and whimsical. Think Kill Bill meets The Expendables, except much, much funnier.
Check out Kyle Starks’ tumblr for more comics goodness!!!