By Dylan Edwards
128 pages, black and white
Published by Northwest Press

Dylan Edwards’ Transposes is, on the surface, a book that you might think you’ve seen before. The story of seven different female-to-male transmen, you probably think that it treads the same ground that so many other books on the subject have tackled. But as soon as you read Edwards’ introduction, where he deftly takes all of the well-meaning questions that are normally asked and explains that this isn’t about any of them, you’ll realize that Transposes is in fact something much better. In taking away the biological questions and just focusing on these men’s lives, Transposes separates the people from science, and that’s why it’s a winner.

Transposes is broken up into six stories, and each of these chapters tackles a different aspect of what it’s like to be a transman. Edwards places Cal’s story first, and I can’t help but think that it was a deliberate gesture to put the most sexual piece as the opener for Transposes. Edwards gets that particular subject out of the way right off the bat, as Cal meets up with an internet admirer and discovers that he’s left behind an important piece of equipment if they’re to hook up. Edwards never takes this into graphic territory—the closest the book ever gets is a brief musing on what size strap-on would be best—but at the same time it quickly stakes out some important ground rules for the book. First, that these transmen are still able to be sexual beings (attractive, being attracted, and having sex too), and second, that relationships with transmen isn’t an exclusive club that only other transmen can enter into. It’s a short little vignette, but I think it was absolutely the right one with which to kick off the book.

From there, Transposes hits all sorts of different stories. Some are about explaining how they realized they were men and explaining it from the present day, some let us move with them through the experience, and some are just about living the life in the moment with no need to explain how we got there. Of the remaining five stories, the two that stick out the most to me are Avery’s and Aaron & James’s. Avery’s is interesting in part because of its different current-day relationship for its protagonist, showing us a non-typical setup and how well it works for him. I love its matter-of-fact nature as Avery describes his life, where he lives, who he dates, and how he deals with people on the phone who mistake him for a woman. ("I don’t want to be make being called female an insult," is a perfect summation of Avery’s attitude, and one that makes you stop and think.) It’s a story that stands out from the others, both in the continual comfort in its own skin and also its strong self-confidence.

Aaron & James’s story is the only one focusing on two people, and it’s here that Edwards’s art shifts from just pleasurable to look at to downright clever. Having the two timelines running alongside the two men’s streams of panels is a fun storytelling technique, and having the timelines merge, pull apart, and then rejoin later is a great summation of how their lives intertwine. Seeing their relationship grow and come together is good, but it’s the visual nature of how Edwards pulls this off that helps remind you that this is as much a visual medium as it is one with the written word involved.

Speaking of Edwards’ art, it’s good. He draws his characters with great skill; no one comes across as a carbon copy of one another, and I love how Edwards gives many of them a certain raw sexuality. So often transpeople are depicted as almost androgynous, so reading comics where the transmen are given (as their lives demand or don’t) the opportunity to be hot and masculine is a refreshing change. Edwards also pays attention to fashions, too; the looks of what everyone’s wearing and how they style themselves in Adam’s story, for example, instantly plunge the story into a very specific time period. A lot of care goes into making everything match; foregrounds, backgrounds, supporting cast, and protagonists. I don’t feel like any shortcuts were taken here, and you end up with a quite handsome looking comic.

Transposes is the sort of comic that I wish we had more of. It’s eye opening for many, but it doesn’t need to be educational in order to be entertaining. That’s where Transposes succeeds the most; by telling just little vignettes for some people and life stories for others, Edwards zooms in effortlessly on what part of their lives will make interesting stories. And in doing so? We’re the winners. Transposes is a charmer of a comic, and I’m looking forward to seeing more comics from Edwards soon.

Purchase Links: | Powell’s Books

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