It would be improper to structure a brief trilogy of stories around a single theme when the diversity of life itself is the theme. The second collection of Robert Kirby’s Three series of comic books touches upon the lives of fictional proxies plucked from the LGBT community, all of whom I’m sure are very much rooted in reality from some corner in this large, mad world.
Much like the first issue of Three, the stories lined up here tackle the single most defining issue in gay lifestyle: sex itself, along with all of the complex eccentricities balled up with it between the sheets. But crass, no—honesty and discomfort may be intertwined, but they’re never approached brashly or without sensitive grace. To be found here are experiences, stories written as personal, narrative essays and illustrated with stylized life that defines the perspective of each account being told.
The fourth wall is deceptively broken in the first story, “Dragon,” written by Sina Evil (a name of enviable elegance): it’s a comic-book story about a comic-book creator, and he has a visiting British fan that is crushing heavily for him. It starts out innocent enough—they talk in cafes and restaurants about the creative process and their experiences as two gay men, but as these things go, that single defining issue of the gay experience slips into the equation: sex itself. The two form a sexual relationship—passionate, but emotionally evanescent and eventually fleeting, as the nameless admirer and the equally nameless creator never move to another level.
The power in the story is that it doesn’t have to. Sex is very rarely conquered by single, monogamous relationships, and “Dragon” doesn’t moralize in any one direction to address the issue. The artist working with writer Evil is none other than Fearful Hunter creator Jon Macy, who is one of the most poignant creators and illustrators actively working in the LGBT comics scene. I’ve observed that Macy has the rare gift of rendering intense sexual imagery into something soft and approachable. And while there’s nothing in “Dragon” that is X-rated (much to my own seedy chagrin, I admit), he still works his skill at capturing the powers and pitfalls of sex.
“Help Wanted” is the second story in the issue, which uses wit and humor to address the complicated and misunderstood circumstances surrounding gender identity. Leo, a straight-laced business man, finds himself a bit tipsy at a company party and the man there to hold him up is Raoul, his daytime personal assistant. And with rivers of booze flowing, it turns into far more.
They stumble to Raoul’s apartment together, only for him to tell Leo that he’s a female-to-male transsexual, sans the genital reconstruction. How does that affect Leo’s sexuality? While the pair shares a fulfilling journey, that question is never answered because it can’t be. It’s an experience first—rendered in a whimsical cartoon-strip fashion—and then a distant analysis second.
Brokeback Mountain will surely come to mind when the last story in the issue, “Nothin’ but Trouble,” created by Craig Bostick and David Kelly, begins. The reason: cowboy hats. A country performer, Jimmy West, drifts from town to town performing in bars and seeking company on street corners afterwards. They’re brief affairs, though; Jimmy knows he’s paying cash for finite companionship. But his taste for rough trade is tested when he takes Butch home, a blond hunk who shows Jimmy more than a good time.
“Nothin’ but Trouble” is cleverly told from two perspectives: the orange-tinted, optimistically illustrated pages reflect Jimmy’s dreamy-eyed infatuation with Butch, while the blue-tinted pages are Butch’s jaded, business-as-usual recollections. Jimmy is just another john.
Robert Kirby’s tactic as the editor of this series and the creators that approach him is unknown to me, but I appreciate what he’s doing. Memoir in comics, like memoir in prose publishing, has been enjoying healthy popularity over the past few years, and under Kirby’s guidance, we’ve discover some new gems in this ongoing series.
This comic book review originally appeared on Broken Frontier.