Reviewed by Will Morgan 03-Jun-15
Funny, tender, whimsical, and utterly, utterly filthy.
Okay, yes, this appeals to a very specialised audience. It’s not for every comics reader, by any means.
But those it does appeal to, I suspect it will appeal to a LOT.
For those of us – I’ll ‘fess up, I know I’m not alone – who have always wondered what Marvel’s Hercules wears under the chiton, who have very fond memories of Murphy Anderson’s Hawkman, and who keep the Gray Morrow limited series Edge of Chaos for no legitimate reason at all… this is a comic book for us.
Dale Lazarov has carved out a niche in the smut market with his wordless – hence needing no translation, enhancing international sales – stories of man-on-man sexual encounters. By emphasising that they are wordless, I don’t by any means denigrate Lazarov’s part in the proceedings. Having written several silent or ‘pantomime’ strips myself, I know how difficult it is to convey the narrative without handy verbal exposition, and I have nothing but respect for anyone who makes the attempt.
The occasional lack of narrative clarity – see my review of his Good Sports, elsewhere on this website – doesn’t mar his high batting average in conveying his storylines. A crucial component of the strip’s success, of course, is the artist’s ease with body language and facial expression, two commodities which are key for me in any comic, but doubly so without the support of text.
A grown-up Cupid, very far from the chubby baby of simpering Valentine’s cards, falls foul of Hercules when the latter discovers Cupid spying on him in a way that is, to say the least, inappropriate. The enraged Hercules chases Cupid down to Earth, where, to distract Hercules from his wrath, Cupid uses his arrows of desire on both the pursuing demi-god and a convenient shepherd. That’s about it for the narrative, but I can assure you there’s a happy ending.
Several, in fact. Over and over again.
Now, yes, if you’re going to be po-faced about it, Cupid’s conduct is deplorable. He’s caught perving over Herc, and when the latter is justifiably indignant, deflects Herc’s wrath by giving him and a hapless mortal what amounts to an Olympian roofie. If the same thing was shown as being done to a woman and a man, people would be, quite rightly, indignant. So stipulated, But gay porn in the comics, from Tom of Finland onwards, does have a long tradition of the participation of reluctant parties as well as the whole power-trip scenario, so it’s historically valid, if not politically correct. And mythologically, there are many precedents of Olympians fooling around with/tricking/coercing mortals and other gods into sex, so it’s, to coin an odd phrase, mythologically accurate.
What it also is, is hot. Much gay porn in comics is tired, repetitive, and joyless, but that’s one tradition and precedent Lazarov dispenses with. Under the happy penstrokes of Adam Graphite (is he one of the Shropshire Graphites or the Berkshire Graphites, I wonder?), Lazarov delivers a smutfest that is funny, tender, whimsical, and utterly, utterly filthy. The gorgeously muted palette gives the grunt and grind an almost ethereal look, and Graphite’s exquisite illustrations, ranking up there with the likes of Adam Hughes in my not-terribly-humble opinion, make the book a visual joy even if you’re not especially into the subject matter.Tags: Adam Graphite, Dale Lazarov, gay comics