Mioki’s 2008 Side by Side was a beautiful love story that managed to be both hot (the sex scenes were numerous and explicit) and tender, with a sense of humor on full display. Published last November, Still Side by Side1 is just more of the same quality, in art and in the writing.
Evan (the blond one) and Rick (the dark-haired one) are now living in the big city, making money by waiting tables, happy to live together (and have lots of sex). Meanwhile, their friends Charlie and Billy also enjoy the perks of the big city and the money older men can provide.
Mioki isn’t writing a sociological treaty here, but it’s nice to see that he’s sketching his characters’ temperament in bold, expressive strokes, giving each other a personality that rings true. He even goes as far as making Charlie, the money-obsessed young man with a 50s cinema star looks, a not entirely sympathetic character, in direct contrast with the rest of the crew, young and old.
While Evan and Rick are the main couple in the story, and the one most obviously in love, Billy and his paying and much older lover Robert are quite sweet together. It’s a kind of story often shown in gay fiction, the one of the hustler with the heart of gold who meets a nice john, but Mioki tells it with a winning earnestness.
Speaking of clichés, I must point out something I thought was interesting: throughout the book, the characters switch from top to bottom as easily as they change wardrobes. I don’t know if one should read the author’s sexual politics in that, but it’s certainly not too common in gay porn fiction.
The fairy tale aspect of the story is in full force with the discovery of the extremely rich world that Robert inhabits and whose doors he and his employer open for the four young men. While the story of the first book was about leaving a small town to live one’s life, this second book’s is in “from (almost) rags to (almost) riches” mode. If Robert is a kind of fairy godfather figure in this story, Billy’s very rich and very bitchy mother is the evil witch. One almost wishes she’d had a bigger role.
As with the first book, Mioki’s art is a wonder to behold. A lot of gay porn artists draw men in an appealing way, but few can draw other things as well. Mioki’s pages offer a fully realized world, with that undefinable something that makes it more than the sum of its impressive parts: as realistic as Mioki’s style is, there’s a kind of glitter all over it, a sparkling quality that becomes even more obvious in some panels or pages, such as a full-pager where Billy gets to taste an incredibly good wine, his surroundings becoming a primordial mountain grassland. Definitely not something one expects to see in an erotic comic.
Examples of Mioki’s sense of humor also pepper the book. Characters break the fourth wall, a florist’s name is “Ophelia’s”, Evan reads Candide while Rick enjoys a silent porn comic, everybody thinks a small coffee press is a cock pump… His humor can be learned as well as bawdy, perfectly complementing the variety of scenes and themes in the book.
Still Side by Side shows that Mioki could carry on telling Evan and Rick’s stories for a long time without repeating himself. His characters are sufficiently interesting for that, and his art keeps wowing the reader.