Matt Hawkins & Jenni Cheung (writers), Linda Sejic (artist)
Top Cow Productions, Inc.
On the header menu of the Top Cow website, the second choice seen is “FREE COMICS.” Down at the bottom of the page, with the rest of the Sejic output, is Swing #1, co-written by Top Cow COO Matt Hawkins. Swing’s print release as a graphic novel is due for release mid-April; this review covers the freely available, downloadable comic at TopCow.com.
Swing needs to find the right groove. A college romance sends Cathy on an unexpected life trajectory; now she and her husband Dan live together with two children, unhappily married on account of their ailing sex-life. We know from Cathy’s thorough narration that this is the story of how these two lovers try to get everything back. While Swing #1 brings us up to speed on Cathy and Dan’s origin story, we’ll have to wait to see the delivery on the enticing title premise.
Married writing team Jenni Cheung and Matt Hawkins bring out all the joy and wonder of finding a mega college crush, but also let the story steep too long in well-tread waters. You know the beats—overbearing mothers, frat guys, pregnancy scares—it’s not that these moments don’t carry verisimilitude, it’s that Swing spends so much time on gentle courtship between Cathy and Dan that we’re kept from the passion. Without the thrust of the past centering that passion, it’s less impactful when it’s gone from the present.
Artist Linda Sejic beautifully renders that all-spotlights-on-you feeling of seeing, meeting, and fucking your crush’s brains out. In various single panels, Cathy and Dan steal time for love. The staccato pacing of these scenes does well to outline the frequency of their desire, but also flattens them into a sex by check-box foray: in the park, in the library, in the car.
Hawkins and Cheung are smart to let the art speak for itself in these tender and tense moments. Cathy glows and words fall away from the page when she’s with Dan.
Dan is sweet and smooth, but is also first pegged as a predatory TA by the professor he works for. There’s a little uneasiness to him when he’s first introduced, but he’s immediately very genuine with Cathy. Throughout their courtship, he doesn’t waver or balk at Cathy choosing to keep their child or get married. This guy really, truly loves her.
Sejic’s pages unfold smoothly during Cathy’s college days to direct us to each character’s varied expressions and away from the college backdrops we’re all familiar with. With so much focus on the characters’ faces, they take on a kind of uncanny quality, like everyone shares a set of facial configurations that we all sort of rotate between. Such is the nature of memory, perhaps. Sejic makes everything connect deftly when the rose-framed passion from the couple’s first date blasts through the entire timeline of their relationship and we end up at the present. Where there’s still a spark, there’s hope for a fire.
But in their not-so actualized marriage, Cathy and Dan end up bearing torches for some tired gender essentialism. Even before we get her name, Sejic chooses to create Cathy’s internal monologue through text boxes identified only by a juicy red border and corresponding Venus symbol. When we finally get Dan’s, it is of course true blue and a paired with a Mars symbol. In a single page, obtuse manhood versus passive-aggressive womanhood is made complete.
Swing is brimming with a lot of presumably personal touches between Cheung and Hawkins’ writing and their relationship. Despite the roles that they’ve taken on so far, I’m rooting for Dan and Cathy. But with Swing dedicating so much to these gendered symbols in its logo, I sincerely hope the series subverts and upends the tired gender roles presented. Until that happens, however, it’s a little vanilla for my tastes.