Swaggering out of prison and onto the page like he just walked out of a stereotypical 80’s-90’s action flick, Shane Sexcastle epitomises the type of hero that Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal played in their prime; a complicated man with a violent past that he’s trying to leave behind him for gentler, much gentler, pursuits. Just like John Matrix or John Rambo, however, despite his best efforts, his past comes back to haunt him in a big way, so of curse he’s going to have to handle it with no holds barred.
Sexcastle may sound hackneyed and over the top but writer and artist Kyle Starks (whose webcomics can be found at http://kylestarks.com/) writes and draws the comic as a loving homage to those classic action movies, making light of some of their tropes without outright mocking them. Sexcastle is an ultimate bad-ass, his skill in dealing out violence is only topped by his ability to drop the perfect one-liner in any situation, perfectly derailing numerous villain’s monologues, with some of the most inventive, hilarious cursing I’ve heard, well read, in quite some time.
That doesn’t mean that the whole comic is wall to wall gags, there is a surprising amount of heart to the story, mostly in Sexcastle’s dealings with Jo, a flower shop owner and single mother who he ends up hanging out with. Injecting such normality into such a ludicrous caper seems to temper it somehow, making the bloody mayhem all the better.
Stark’s scratchy, loose style suits the story perfectly, capturing moments of extreme, yet funny, violence and touching emotion equally well, able to conveying the crushing impact of a kick to the junk as well as communicate a character’s emotions in just a single wordless panel.
I found Sexcastle hilarious; the mix of action hero assassin shenanigans with relatively normal people and every-day problems works beautifully. The story quietly introduces elements throughout, from mysterious cases to Sexcastle’s background, only to have them pay off cleverly later.
Thanks to its adult language and “situations” it’s not a comic that should be shared with young kids but it’s perfectly for all those former kids who grew up on Commando, Rambo, Predator and their ilk. Here’s hoping that we’ll see more of Shane Sexcastle in future.