This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
You’ve got a handful of pages to prove your concept, to introduce your character, to get your hooks into your reader and keep ’em coming back for more. How do you handle it? In The Art of the Start we look at first issues, be they new originals, fresh story angles, or total reboots. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Insexts is something a little different. For a start this is very much an adult comic, so youngsters begone. It also mixes the oft violent misogyny of the Victorian era with sex and … insects. Given that Insexts is pretty darn unusual, does the first issue work and is it any good?
The opening pages reveal the entire tone of the comic. We open on an insect and a song that carries us through the streets and past a bordello, through the air to a large house. The insect flies in through the window and is squashed on the chest of the mistress of the house, Lady Bertram.
The insect is swatted into gross squishy pulp on Lady Bertram’s chest, her to bleed and her lady in waiting and lover Mariah to fuss about her breasts. Insects, violence, blood, sensuality and love; this in essence is Insexts and it’s been surmised in just four pages with relatively few words. Insexts is up front about what it is and it’s clever to establish its sandbox so early on.
When things are a little different then laying out the rules, setting up the themes, right away is a good move and that’s exactly what’s happening here. Once that’s done we get taken a little deeper. The first four pages are normal, appear to be set in a place where we can predict the physical world that these characters exist in. The reader is drawn in, is made to feel safe. Then page five starts to twist what the reader considers reality.
Lady Bertram’s husband is a violent oaf; she’s panicking that she hasn’t yet provided a family heir. Mariah offers to provide that heir while stripping them both. Remember that these two women are lovers, but two women alone cannot get Lady Bertram pregnant, or so you’d think. What follows are three pages of wonderful lesbian erotica ending in Mariah vomiting up an egg and implanting it into Lady Bertram via her mouth.
It’s sensual and gross, which is what sex can be if you’re doing it right. It’s also thematically repeating the earlier crushing of the insect; Insexts repeats this again and again—when Lady Bertram is bedded by her husband she switches on him and takes charge, implanting an egg inside of him. The sweetness of Mariah and Lady Bertram chatting in bed compared to the violence and gore of the egg exploding from Lord Bertram.
Then we’re back to love and family with the newly hatched William. This spiral of themes establishes the comic and provides a solid base on which to build. Insexts is such a good first issue that you may miss how well it’s written on the first time through. It’s worth a second pass to fully understand how Insexts sets up and repeats its themes and beats to keep the reader engaged, pulling them deeper into its created world with each pass through.
It’s clever storytelling and shows a great way of establishing a unique world in the first issue of a comic. This is getting the art of the start right.