A despotic theocracy rules America and has banned pleasure! In Image Comics’ Safe Sex #4, can a band of outlawed fetishists break into the Orwellian titled Pleasure Centre, the site of their former Dirty Mind sex club, and free their friend and compatriot George from the depravity of brainwashing? Find out in our Major Spoilers review!
Writer: Tina Horn
Artist: Michael Dowling
Colorist: Jen Hickman
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Laurenn McCubbin
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: December 18th, 2019
Previously in Safe Sex: the decadent as hell lifestyle of the fetishists of the Dirty Mind sex club is under threat from the neo-Puritans who have captured the American government. Led by a motley assortment of dominatrixes, the fetishists prepare to launch a raid to free a loved one from the Pleasure Center, a facility where all the worst desires of its inmates are eliminated…with torture!
I’M TOO SEXY FOR THIS COMIC
Safe Sex #4, from the dominating hand of writer Tina Horn, pulls no punches. In fact, it positively revels in sado-masochism, of the sort that your reviewer can’t explicitly mention in this family themed review. It depicts scenes of sex, violence and sex and violence, while also continuing its examination of freedom versus censorship. It is an at times confronting issue, full of depraved acts and also the burning desire to be free.
Safe Sex #4 opens with a flashback of a younger man named George, volunteering at a fetish club called the Dirty Mind. George works for the new theocracy that rules America, but yearns for something that feels real. He falls in with a dominatrix called Avory, who goes by the stage name, Miss Salacious. While America burns with religious zeal, the sort that stultifies and restricts, the people in the Dirty Mind just want to be free.
Zoom forward four years and George is now imprisoned within the Pleasure Centre, a facility built over the former Dirty Mind Club. There, the authorities have instituted a reign of terror by aversion, a sort of industrial sized therapy session by torture, designed to ensure that its victims learn to stay within the acceptable bounds of human behaviour. Writer Tina Horn, whose sympathies are never in doubt, does go to some effort to depict the other side of the argument – that the unrestrained search for pleasure only results in the domination of women by the patriarchy, and that access to pornorgraphy, and indeed,violent pornography, only serves to further entrench the power of the patriarchy. There is certainly merit in this line of argument – if your pursuit of pleasure means someone else is being hurt, or compelled to do something they’d rather not do, but economic circumstances force them into, is that really freedom? Indeed, is your freedom worth more than someone else’s?
All that said, Horn is definitely on the side of freedom here. The authorities are depicted as drab functionaries spouting technocratic nonsense all in the belief that their extreme actions serve the interests of the people, and not in fact their own hidden perversions.
THE ART IS…STIMULATING
After artist Alejandra Gutiérrez’s guest appearace in the previous issue, Safe Sex #4 features the art of Michael Dowling. Gutiérrez’s looser, and dare I say it, rubbery style, is abandoned for a harder, grittier feel. Dowling doesn’t shy away from full frontal nudity throughout the issue, as George’s ‘treatment’ is covered in all its uncomfortable glory. Nor are depictions of sex shied away from, so if you’re of a sensitive disposition, Safe Sex #4 may not be for you. That warning aside, Dowling’s artwork brings to vivid life the lifestyle Avory, George, Jonesy and the others have embraced, with all its complications and consequences. Whereas the previous issue had a cartoonish feel, Dowling provides a straight up and down illustrative tour de force. He doesn’t shy away from the depiction and consequences of pain, just as writer Tina Horn doesn’t avoid the complexities of the lifestyle she advocates and promotes (as readers can see in her column at the end of the issue).
BOTTOM LINE: Safe Sex #4 is a compelling read complemented by some very fine artwork. Both writer and illustrator demonstrate their commitment to their material in their willingness to go to the limit in both spheres. Safe Sex #4 is an issue where the group finalise their plans to break into the Pleasure Centre while George, undergoing severe aversion therapy, uses all his wiles and guile to attempt to escape.
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Safe Sex #4
A warts and all look at the pleasure and pain of sado-masochism, and the confronting reality that my freedom to do what I want may result in pain for others, underscores the power of reading Safe Sex #4.