Three volumes in, and Swing is one of those rare comics that keeps improving over time. Published by Image and Top Cow, the graphic novel series combines the creative efforts of writer Matt Hawkins (with volume one contributions by Jenni Cheung), and artists Linda Sejic and Yishan Li. Together, they tell a decidedly R-rated tale about a couple exploring the swinging scene. It’s probably pure coincidence, but appropriate, that the latest volume of this spicy romance is releasing the day before Guy Fawkes Night in the UK. Because, well, expect fireworks.
A spin-off from Stjepan Sejic’s BDSM-themed hit Sunstone, Swing tells the story of Cathy and Dan, a married couple who’ve had their spark extinguished after several years of domestic grind. Although obviously in love, the couple’s relationship was fast-tracked by a shotgun wedding in their early twenties, and a sense of missed opportunities has only mounted since then. Cathy’s proposed solution is to try swinging, but as much as it throws lighter fluid on their sex life, venturing outside the boundaries of monogamy comes with a new set of challenges to Cathy and Dan’s greater relationship.
Swing does require a bit of investment to reach the “good stuff,” and that’s not talking about its racy depictions of sex. The series takes a while to get going, with Volume 1 serving primarily as an introduction the characters, and little in the way of depicted swinging. (You can currently download and read Volume 1 in its entirety, for free here).
In terms of hooking readers from the start, Cathy and Dan just don’t have the dorky charm of Sunstone’s Ally and Lisa, or Bloodstain’s Vlad and Elly. This comparison is worth mentioning because the stories (along with Hawkins’s and Li’s other miniseries collaboration, Sugar) share the same slice-of-life comics universe. They all cross over at key points in Swing, largely thanks to Dan’s MMORPG commitments.
Young, attractive Los Angeles natives, Swing’s protagonists read more like characters in a slick pay channel drama – think Californication or Hung – rather than real, messy people. For example, Dan is an aspiring author working as a high school English teacher and shouldering most daytime parental duties, while Cathy is a high-flying marketing executive serving the film industry. It’s not like we’ve never encountered these character types before.
Then again, even with a step away from reality reinforced by Li’s manga-leaning art style in Volumes 2 and 3, Swing works as a raunchy romance that serves up an increasingly engrossing mix of eroticism, education and emotion. It’s sexy escapism done right.
Cathy and Dan have some maturing to do, and Swing’s volumes convey their emotional evolution as the plot advances in parallel. In Book 2, the couple starts seriously exploring “Lifestyle,” and the reader joins them as they enter unknown territory. The second volume of Swing spotlights the surprising number of rules that underpin ethical non-monogamy. It’s fascinating for a casual observer with little knowledge of the scene, and is clearly well researched.
Swing is unquestionably another sex-positive book from Image and Top Cow. The benefits and dangers of swinging feature equally, and readers never feel the looming shadow of authorial judgement. This even when Cathy and Dan pursue some rather problematic items on their sexual bucket list. The message take-home with Swing is that, more than anything else, honest, open communication in a relationship opens the door to lasting fulfilment. That insight is welcome, and the comic demonstrates a similarly welcome maturity in terms of uncritically showing alternate sexual lifestyles and practices.
As for Swing Volume 3, the series seems to have found its groove in all departments with its third instalment. It’s the strongest book in the series so far. At the end of Volume 2, it seemed like Swing would leave its protagonists lumbering around in jealousy and seething resentment, which gets tiring fast. Volume 3, however, leaps over the narrative quicksand, leaving Cathy and Dan free to explore their desires, with a resulting contentment that has knock-on effects for their relationship and professional lives.
Swing Volume 3 isn’t a heavy read, but it ends with a brutal backhand of a cliff-hanger. It’ll be interesting to see how Hawkins navigates the characters towards a very tough decision, and if the comic will veer away from the “safe” and predictable response to such a situation.
We have a few more years to find out. Five volumes are planned for Swing, with Volume 3 available as of this Wednesday, November 4. Two more graphic novels are planned to wrap up the series, releasing mid-year 2021 and 2022 respectively.
Meanwhile, sweetening the deal with Volume 3 is the inclusion of not-unsubstantial previews for upcoming collected editions of Stjepan Sejic’s Fine Print and Linda Sejic’s Punderworld. There’s also an enlightening “Sex Ed” afterword where writer Hawkins talks through some of his creative choices, and discoveries while doing research for Swing.
Ultimately Swing won’t really satisfy a hunger for humour like other comics in the “Sejic-verse,” but it will scratch other itches – like a lust for sexy, stylish escapism that takes you away from your worries and into a world little explored in mainstream media.
Here’s where you can get hold of the Swing graphic novels released so far.
Last Updated: November 4, 2020