InSEXts: Shapeshifting Victorian Lesbians with a Bone to Pick
We’ve seen comics featuring queer characters (Lumberjanes, Rat Queens, Effigy) but have we seen comics featuring shape-shifting lesbians from Victorian England? Does this sound oddly specific; like something you didn’t know you needed until this very moment, perhaps? Enter InSEXts, an ongoing story written by Marguerite Bennett, drawn by Ariela Kristantina, and colored by Bryan Valenza that focuses on a troop of downtrodden women who discover great power. This series is outwardly lesbian, focusing on the relationship between its two main characters, Mariah and Lady, and the measures they will take to find some sense of empowerment in male-dominated Victorian London.
Marguerite Bennet, the creator and writer of InSEXts also works with DC Comics’ Bombshells and Batwoman. She consistently features queer narratives in her work as well as female characters who use their supernatural strengths to shape and rebuild their worlds. Marguerite explores female relationships in a realistic, relatable way, both platonically and romantically. She was, after all, the writer responsible for Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s first on-page kiss.
InSEXts does not fall short when it comes to displays of affection. In fact, it is wrought with graphic sex. The erotic scenes between Mariah and Lady do not feel aggrandized. They’re depicted as being filled with passion and sweetness while also being slimy and wet in a way that only genuine sex can be. Much of the dialogue that takes place during these scenes moves the story forward in a natural and obvious way. The characters discuss the mundane and the grand while rolling back and forth between the sheets. They remind one another of their love, passion, and anger.
A horror comic, InSEXts is laid heavy with grotesque scenes. The women that it focuses on are literally monsters and often their actions are appropriately horrifying. They lie, manipulate, and murder their way into places of power. They are cruel but with good reason. We see that they are consistently disrespected for being women, their feelings for one another often scoffed at or outwardly mocked by the people around them. As a result, their monstrous actions seem almost human. They are not murdering for fun (though they do have a blast) but rather because their voices are otherwise ignored.
There is a fantastic melding of erotic, lesbian illustration and flat-out gore in such a way that the two feel seamlessly intertwined. Because sex between female characters in InSEXts is often used to share in a singular power or to transfer and grow this power, it allows queerness to be transformed into an arsenal. Facing our lifelong oppressors is at the forefront of the characters’ and the readers’ minds. Lady and Mariah’s actions are that of those in the LGBTQIA+ community who have found their voices and who seek to use them as a tool. With these new-found powers (which I will not explain further as not to ruin the plot) Mariah and Lady find wealth and a life that is fully theirs. Queerness is powerful.
Explore this dark world of murder and love here.