Swing Volume 2
Matt Hawkins (writer), Jenni Cheung (writer), Yishan Li (artist), Troy Peteri (letterer), Linda Sejic (artist)
Top Cow Productions
September 18, 2019
Dan and Cathy are a couple approaching 40. They are still very much in love, and though there are some glitches in their career path, they are fairly successful. They have two children and a mom readily available to babysit. Their life in general is more or less ideal, but they’ve lost that spark in their sex life. In the first volume of Swing, they discovered the kindling they need to reignite their passion through swinging.
The second volume opens with a recap of what came before as the couple awkwardly waded into this new lifestyle. There were, unsurprisingly, some hiccups, with Dan finding the idea of sex clubs and swinging with a whole other heterosexual couple a bit too much for him to handle. But when Cathy invites a girlfriend over, the magic finally happens.
Like the previous, this volume opens with an erotic spread, beautifully and tastefully drawn and coloured in warm reds, lushly decorated with roses. Yishan Li’s work here feels more robust than with Sugar, her previous sex positive collaboration with writer Matt Hawkins. Characters are more distinguishable and the poses feel more comfortable and far more erotic.
From there, Dan and Cathy’s story starts up again. Their play with threesomes has been successful, but Dan understands that Cathy wants something more and that his aversion to involving men is unfair to her as she explores her sexuality, having never been with other men (or women) before they got together, as he had been with other women. He decides that he’s willing to try swinging with other couples, and this is the focus of the arc from here on out.
Top Cow has made a name for itself in the realm of mainstream sex positive comics with Sunstone. What Sunstone does for the BDSM lifestyle, Swing attempts to do for swinging. Like Sunstone, Swing offers some insight into the lifestyle, working in the lingo and letting us discover the ups and downs along with Dan and Cathy. It serves as a helpful introduction, maintaining a strong, positive focus on the sexual exploration in a healthy, open, and honest relationship. Though they speak about people in their lives who may not be so accepting or understanding of what they are doing, Dan and Cathy themselves express no shame in their decisions, and being honest with each other at all times is the key that Hawkins stresses throughout.
What Swing lacks, however, is the warmth and character depth and interaction of Sunstone, making the writing feel more clinical than it should be in a comic about romantic and erotic interludes. However, through shared glances and constant touch, Li keeps the connection between Dan and Cathy strong, but the couple is undefined beyond being almost-40 parents who are learning about this lifestyle. I want to see more moments of them being a couple, being individuals, and being parents–outside of their hunt for swinging satisfaction. Narrative dialogue (neatly identified by distinctive male and female symbols with lettering by Troy Peteri that softens the clinical nature of the text) and a few panels tell us that Dan and Cathy’s lives have improved in many ways outside of their sexual exploration. They are happy, we’re told. But we don’t get to see enough evidence of that to truly get to know who these people are and therefore care about them beyond the lifestyle instructions they are providing.
Their children are window dressing, occasionally bursting in at inconvenient moments to inject humour, but otherwise existing solely in the background. (I sigh wistfully at how Cathy’s tiny perfect nipples and perfectly round and firm breasts managed to survived two children.) There’s one moment where a parenting disagreement comes into play, but it’s a passing moment, quickly forgotten, save for the fact that it’s steeped in dishonesty (‘don’t tell your mom’) despite honesty being one of the biggest touchstones of swinging.
The true highlight of the book is when, after sorting through the “fakes and flakes” permeating the lifestyle, Dan and Cathy finally find an experienced couple with whom they click. I wanted to see more of this couple, but one of the many and necessary rules that Dan and Cathy agree to abide by is avoiding repeated contact with the same people, and being open about chance meetings with any sexual partners outside of arranged play. Tension creeps in towards the end of the volume when, inevitably, these rules threaten to be tested. The first two volumes of the story are slowly paced up to this point as Hawkins works to establish and explain the lifestyle and Dan and Cathy’s role in it. But if you’ve made it this far, the tease of that tension promises to really heat things up for the future.
The maturing sexuality of the publisher through titles like these is commendable and I want to see so much more of this from Top Cow. I want to see more big name publishers be brave enough to do the same because positive portrayals of sexuality and romance in mainstream comics doesn’t need to be so niche.