Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, December 14, 2006
      ( 12/14/2006 01:39:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"EVERYONE LOSES THEIR TASSEL EVENTUALLY, ADAM!" – Adam Chamberlain, the lead of Vertigo Comics' bluntly titled American Virgin, is a 21st century phenomenon: professionally chaste, he's developed a rep as a youth minister and even has a best-selling religious manifesto (Save Yourself to Save Yourself) devoted to preaching the values of saving yourself 'til marriage. His toad-faced mother and oily evangelist stepfather see Adam as the great white hope who’ll increase the family fortunes (though each parent has a different idea of what that specifically entails), and at first Adam seems willing to go along with this plan. He has a gorgeous fiancé safely out of reach, working for the Peace Corps in Africa; he has a growing audience of wide-eyed kids eager to sign his Virginity Pledge Cards and a hidden cache of cards and notes handed to him by sweet young things just as eager to get him to give it up. Self-assured in his Christian certainty, he's just ripe for the kind of belief-shaking catastrophe that God and storytellers love to create.

The first four issues of this process of Adam's soul searching, courtesy of writer Steven T. Seagle and artist Becky Cloonan, have recently been printed in trade paperback format under the title of American Virgin: Head. The subheading has more than one meaning, of course, and, if you're thinking of the risqué one, well, rest assured that Seagle will have one of his characters make the inevitable joke about it. But the real Head in question is that of Adams' fiancé Cassandra, who has been raped and beheaded by members of a terrorist cell attacking American workers.

Having gotten by for years telling audiences and himself that God has decreed Cassie is the only woman for him, Adam is totally thrown off-keel by this news. With jaded half-sis Cindy tagging along for support, our hero flies to Mozambique to retrieve his love's body, only to learn that her head is missing. Enlisting the aid of a New Zealand mercenary known only as "Mel," Adam seeks the terrorists behind Cassie's assassination. As he does, he continually bumps up against a culture which challenges his Americanized Christian world-view. Additionally, the young minister begins having visions of a naked Cassandra gently prodding him to reconsider his dogmatic anti-sex stance. She first appears to him with her face affixed to photos of naked models in a skin mag that an airline passenger has dropped on his lap, then as a large angelic image hovering over a crowd of half-clothed villager women. Yup, our hero's being tested pretty hard.

Seagle's script runs the gamut from heartfelt considerations of religious faith to racy, rather obvious satire. It's not easy taking characters from a movement that itself often reads like it came out of one of Phillip Roth's lesser novels and making them more than caricatures – and Seagle doesn't always succeed. I bought the idea that Adam would, when confronted by an alien culture as he still wrestles with the fact of his girlfriend's death, retreat to knee-jerk evangelicalism more than once (even if Seagle does overplay it). I was less convinced by his depictions of Mom and Step-Dad – and a pair of snaggle-toothed jealous cousins who kidnap Adam so they can subject him to a virginity-tempting lap dance – who seem to've wandered in from a broader comic book altogether.

What frequently saves this ragged, but engaging series for me is Sister Cindy. Short and zaftig, with bright red hair, a stud under her lower lip and a big rose tat, she's just the type of comic irritant that artist Becky (Demo) Cloonan excels at drawing. A hedonistic foil to Adam (when we first see her, she's getting ready to bug out on some undefined shady deal), she nonetheless provides the voice of moral normalcy just before Adam gets ready to confront one of Cassie's killers. As rendered by Cloonan, Cindy is the closest to a manga-figure in the series (she moves around and smirks like a young kid mischief-maker), and you can see the pleasure the artist gets whenever she comes on-panel. If her brother doesn't have the same amount of graphic energy, it's largely because neither self-pitying mopery nor self-righteous indignation are as much fun to visually sustain in the pages of a comic . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter