Sex is everywhere in Western culture, and at the same time Christianity is engrained in the culture of the United States about as much as baseball or hot dogs. Over the last six years, Christianity’s role in American culture has grown due to the Republican push to enforce Christian values whether the populace likes it or not. Regarding sex and the Bush Administration, youth abstinence has been one of the focuses of their policies.
Enter Steven T. Seagle and Becky Cloonan who approach youth abstinence and saving oneself for marriage by giving us Adam Chamberlain, Christian Youth spokesperson, and the head of a virginity movement. He’s been saving himself for his one true love that is working in Africa and is set to return shortly — only the day before she is set to return, she is killed and Adam wonders now what he is to do.
What is interesting is that Seagle stresses sexual views by showing the world surrounding Adam, particularly outside of America. This shows the rest of the world’s view of sexuality juxtaposed with Adam’s “my way is the only way” point of view. Adam may not realize it yet, but it seems that abstinence is a practice that is, in terms of Western society, only prevalent in America. This story is a coming of age story for Adam, as he learns that life, and sex, is not as simple as he thinks it is.
Seagle does tend to use extremes in terms of supporting characters, particularly when it comes to Adam’s own family. His mother is a fundamentalist Christian who seems more interested in keeping her son as the poster-child for youth abstinence than anything else, whereas Adam’s sister is a very liberal twenty-something who is more than happy to help Adam rebel against his mother. In the middle are Adam’s brother, who belongs to the youth virginity movement but seems tempted and more than willing to give in at any time, and Adam’s step-father, who has a more sordid past than anyone realizes.
Cloonan’s art suits this book, and it looks different than any other Vertigo book currently on the shelves; it certainly should, as the subject matter is among the most original out right now. Her artwork fluctuates between clean lines and rough sketches depending on the tone of the scene, brilliantly invoking the emotions of the story. Even the coloring is of a simpler style than most comics today, employing mostly solid tones and primary colors.
It is hard to gage Seagle’s opinion on abstinence based on American Virgin, as he depicts the extremes of all sides, but he also shows Adam to be a somewhat enlightened person from time to time. The biggest question is where this series is going; there is not much in the way of future potential developed beyond the search for the killer of Adam’s girlfriend. This can be a positive or a negative: the reader is left with a mystery, but it is one thaty may never go anywhere, and the series could lose sight of its original intentions.
Overall, American Virgin shows the potential to be one of the most original books in the Vertigo library, fusing a coming-of-age story with the very prevalent issue of youth abstinence and virginity. It has never been more important to look at this topic and review it with a good dose of realism. There does not seem to be much fuss over this title yet, but hopefully that will change. With a topic as heated as sex, if Seagle and Cloonan do their jobs right it’s only a matter of time before people start making noise about this comic, and that’s a very good thing.