Where  once she was Simona Salacious, now she’s just Mrs. Horowitz. Before, a risk-taking queer film maker and sex worker. Now, the unemployed wife of a government worker, trying to find any work she can get. In this sci-fi social thriller, The Party claims it has freed people from the stress and unhappiness by policing sexual expression. A group of queer sex workers disagrees, and is about to break into their old stomping grounds to get some semblance of freedom back. It’s time for some SFSX.

As you might guess from the above (also SFSX is short for Safe Sex), this comic involves sex work, queer culture, and the idea of deviance. There is also physical and mental torture that is fairly graphic, since we’re handing out warnings. 

So considering that, it’s a funny fact that the sex part of SFSX isn’t really that graphic. There’s a tour of The Dirty Mind at one point and there are certainly images of people having sex or involved in sex acts, but it all looks and feels very normalized and not there to turn the reader on. However, the scenes involving characters being tortured are kind of hard to look at, particularly one scene when a character has his genitals tortured and another gets his shot. They’re very effectively traumatizing, which is great for proving their point, but might be treading into torture porn territory in some scenes. The art in general makes very effective use of different color palettes to denote the past vs present, the world of sex and sex work vs the world of the Party, and people’s emotions. 

An unfortunate fact is that though the cast is more diverse than say your standard superhero comic in skin color and body shape, the only fat character is essentially asexual and dresses in loose fitting or unflattering clothing when we never see any of the other characters dress that way willingly. It reinforces the stereotype that fat people are physically undesirable, which is unfortunate considering the subject matter of this comic. I appreciate that there is an asexual character, and one that uses they/them pronouns, but not that they are also not interesting enough to put in cool outfits like the rest of the primary cast. We do see people with different physical abilities in the background, which is awesome. Maybe if the series continues we’ll see one of them become a main character.

The plot unfortunately falls flat as well. The concept is that these queer sex workers undermine the conservative government and help create change, but there’s a very gatekeep-y undercurrent, primarily in reference to Avory (AKA formerly Simona Salacious). She’s abandoned by her former friends and coworkers because she chose to hide in plain sight instead of being on the run with them, and somehow that means she’s betrayed all of them when they were all trying to survive. We are also told repeatedly that she’s selfish or a coward, but then also that she’s a genius and everything depends on her. It makes it difficult to care about her or her relationship with most of the other characters, since they seem to hate each other or at least mistrust each other through most of the comic. Not to mention, much of their plan revolves around someone else who is part of the system to survive, but there’s less disgust thrown his way. 

I was excited about a comic by sex workers about sex workers when I heard about SFSX, but unfortunately felt it didn’t quite live up to the hype. Part of this might be that Tina Horn is new to writing comics, and that the project got shifted from Vertigo to Image partway through creation. I’m not sure. So it’s not bad, but it isn’t what I hoped for and has some troubling implications. If you have a population that likes comics with strong political commentary, or have an active comic book club, then this might be a great choice, especially as a counterpoint in discussion with a comic like Bitch Planet. Otherwise I can’t strongly recommend adding it to a collection.

SFSX Vol. 1 
By Tina Horn
Art by Michael Dowling, Alejandra Gutierrez, and Jen Hickman
ISBN: 9781534315853
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: M
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Queer

  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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