Review: Casual Fling #4
Content warning: sexual assault
Jason Starr, Dalibor Talajic, and Marco Lesko’s erotic thriller comes to a sweet, satisfying close in Casual Fling #4 as Jennifer teams up with her estranged husband Matthew and his hacker buddy Sensei to find the mysterious man that she had a one night affair with, but then was blackmailed by a potential leaked sex tape. Before going into the issue proper, I would like to applaud AWA Studios for publishing a monthly comic in this genre while helping the popular genres in comics match up with prose. This is while not losing sight of what makes comics great as one glance or a character’s body language as drawn by Talajic can tell as much about who they are as paragraphs of pure text.
With only four issues to work with, Starr has to quickly wrap up the loose ends of Casual Fling and leave time for a denouement featuring the beating heart of this series: the relationship between Jennifer and Matthew. The Hackers meets Eyes Wide Shut hijinks of a man, who is manipulative, charming, and as shown in this issue, a rapist are the surface draw of the comic. However, the most compelling part of Casual Fling is how it maneuvers a struggling marriage that ends up being quite complex with children, in-laws, and if the sex tape gets out, lost employment. This is why Jason Starr and Dalibor Talajaic bookend the issue with interactions between Jennifer and Matthew. The opening sequence shows how worn down they are with Jennifer balancing her career and being a single mom, and Matthew having many sleepless nights trying to track down the golden masked man, who blackmailed his wife.
There’s a chaotic energy in the way Talajic arranges the figures in his panels this first scene of Casual Fling #4 that goes with the confused dialogue that Starr writes for Jennifer and Matthew’s young children. They don’t know anything about the deeper implications of what is going on, but are tired of being shuttled in and out of the city depending on which parent gets them. The stress extends to Jennifer and Matthew, and Jason Starr’s writing nails where the relationship is at with Jennifer trying to be complimentary and repair their relationship while Matthew is laser-focused on the comic’s procedural plot. However, he does end up opening up to Sensei while they watched a montage of the curved dick, golden masked man manipulate women and says that maybe he got too caught up scheduling his children’s lives to think about her needs. Matthew also thought their relationship would work out because his parents were married for over forty years. Dalabor Talajic zooms in on Matthew’s furrowed brow while Sensei diagnoses why Jennifer had an affair. Sense is the unsung hero of Casual Fling with her filthy, often inappropriately timed sense of humor (She makes a crack about how Jennifer would be good at porn.), genuinely good advice, and casual, god-tier hacking skills.
Speaking of hacking skills, Starr definitely leans on it to wrap up the plot of Casual Fling #4 as we go from Jennifer meeting with other blackmail and sexual assault victims of the gold masked man to something out of the last five minutes of a Law and Order SVU episode. That quick wrap up connects to how Casual Fling overall is structured with the first couple issues focusing on Jennifer having the affair and the effect it had on her marriage and her career, and the back half of the miniseries turning into more of a thriller. Some off panel hacking gets the good ending, and even though it would be nice to see Sensei, Matthew, and Jennifer match wits with the golden masked man, Jason Starr and Talajic focus on getting justice for his victims instead of trying to make him a sympathetic figure. In the end, he and his partner end up looking like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, and the fact that there are powerful men out there who act this way (Or look the other while their buddies act this way *cough* Bill Gates) is what makes Casual Fling such a harrowing read. I also love the dig that Starr gets in at the police, who are basically useless in this comic just like they are in most cases of revenge porn in real life with a focus on shaming women instead of understanding consent.
With emotionally open art and color palette from Dalibor Talajic and Marco Lesko and honest writing from Jason Starr, Casual Fling #4 is a strong finish for a comic that was a decent erotic thriller and still had plenty of time for tough, nuanced conversations. I would definitely love to read more monthly books like it in the future.
Story: Jason Starr Art: Dalibor Talajic Colors: Marco Lesko
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy
AWA/Upshot provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review