It’s entirely possible that I’m exactly the wrong person to review comics porn. After nearly a decade of filing comics porn, ringing up comics porn at conventions, proofreading comics porn catalogs (due to Fantagraphics’ Eros line, to which Jess Fink, the cartoonist under discussion here, has contributed), writing essays about comics porn, conducting the occasional interview with a comics pornographer and educating myself generally on how adult material (including comics porn) is handled by retailers and libraries, I’m relatively desensitized to it.
Female Intern: Don’t these images disturb you?
Me: It disturbs me when I have to alphabetize pen names like Oh! Great and Marquis de Panasewicz.
That said, Jess Fink’s “erotic, robotic Victorian romance” Chester 5000 XYV, an ongoing Web comic that’s recently been collected into a graphic novel by Top Shelf, is utterly of the zeitgeist. It has enough gadgets to entice the steampunk crowd, enough heat (tempered by romance) to seduce the yaoi crowd, enough sex-positivity for the feminist crowd, and enough craft for any “but girls can’t drrraawwwww” naysayers.
It helps that Fink balances plot and sex scenes deftly: in Chester 5000 XYV, an inventor inadvertently creates the perfect sex robot, Chester, for his sexually voracious wife, Pricilla, when he becomes too busy attend to her needs. Pricilla and Chester fall in love; complications ensue. In between these complications are sex scenes, with new attachments for Chester (with their own splash pages) and new partners to mix things up (yep, there’s girl on girl: never leave porn without it). Drawn with a brush pen, washed in gray (with a slight pink/purple tone for the Web-comic), the interior of the 6 3/4” x 7 3/4” hardcover is a study in curves: the curves of breasts, vulvas, penises, stocking-clad calves, tendrils of hair, Chester’s sleekly domed head. During the sex scenes, the panels curve with the action, “organic” — sometimes literally. For example, when Chester and Pricilla make love out-of-doors, the panels have arboreal flourishes. When Fink is delivering information more straightforwardly — distant dinners, arguments — they straighten out into a squat six-panel layout.
Chester 5000 XYV is also “silent,” save for some sound effects (“vert!”), and punctuation of the exclamatory variety. Fortunately, Fink is fluid with facial expressions and body language (I know): far more than other very successful porn cartoonists. This adds dimension to the sex sequences. Perhaps due to the more ornate historical period, Fink’s art is lusher than her Rear Entry and Head contributions. For readers who like a bit of wit to their erotica, Fink also has a lot of Freudian fun with keys, keyholes, and hardware. Chester 5000 XYV also has a lot to offer costuming enthusiasts (and fetishists): Fink obviously loves detailing lingerie.
Jess Fink’s Chester 5000 XYV is most likely the heir to Colleen Coover’s Small Favors (also published by Eros, it’s coming out in an omnibus from Top Shelf at some point); it's a woman-friendly, couple-friendly book destined to become a perennial in sex-positive toy and book stores.
All images ©2011 Jess Fink.