Writer: Steven T Seagle
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Publisher: DC Comics/Verigo
Plot: Part 5 of the five part story arc: "Around the World."
Comments: (WARNING: contains mature content!)
Martijn Form: I have a tremendous dislike for light entertainment like daytime soap operas. They are unrealistic and have nothing to do with life itself. Why do I mention daytime TV in a review of American Virgin? Well, this issue has elements of a soap but in a profound way.
Rob Murray: I generally agree with your sentiments about soap operas. However, you have to admit that any serial form of entertainment is bound to have the same elements of unreality as daytime soaps, which obviously includes our beloved comic books. What turns me off most about daytime soap operas are the one-dimensional characters that I struggle in vain to relate with. American Virgin doesnít have that problem. Adam and Vanessa are fully fleshed-out characters who I can sympathize with, laugh with, and ultimately understand.
Martijn: Yeah, youíre right. The characters are excellent, even though some of them are pretty off-beat. Steven T. Seagle does a great job with the dialogue to really flesh out Adam. His persona is one with great conflicts that I love reading about. And if I wasnít married I wouldnít mind dating Vanessa myself (ha ha)!
American Virgin has more than its fair share of sexual innuendos which makes this a mature read and quite realistic. It gets you so up-close and personal, it can make you blush.
Rob: Thatís true! Weíve come to know Adam as a wise young man with a definite view of the world and his place in it. To see this special person going through a life moment most of us have experienced first hand creates an emotional bond that you donít often find in mainstream comics.
Martijn: Totally agree with you Rob. The emotional bond you mention is what sets American Virgin apart from a lot of mainstream books. I think Vertigo is doing an excellent job of sticking their necks out again and again. The freedom Vertigo gets from DC/Warner Brothers still amazes me. Christianity mixed with sexuality can be a touchy subject. Rob, are you a Christian?
Rob: Iím proud to say that I am, though my faith isnít the impetus behind my analytical love of this series. I think this is a well-crafted series by a talented writer who has obviously thought long and hard about the interrelations of religion, sex, and the meaning of life. Just like he did with Itís a Bird, Seagle delves into a subject that obviously interests him, hoping to find answers that werenít apparent to him at first. What are your feelings on religion?
Martijn: I was raised Catholic, but consider myself now more of an atheist/humanist, but you raise an interesting question. Is Seagle trying to find some answers of his own by telling the story of American Virgin? I think he does. And as he seeks the answers, he takes us along for the ride and lets us consider our own philosophy on the meaning of life. Reading this comic opens my mind about faith in general and my personal struggles with life. What do you think of the struggles Adam has with his religion?
Rob: I think his struggles are realistic, legitimate, and telling. As any Christian man or woman will tell you, every believer struggles with his or her faith. People who tell you they are a perfect Christian example are lying to themselves and to their savior. So, when I see Adam cursing and necking one second, then espousing the wonderful mystery of Godís word the next, I see a human being who is well on his way to salvation.
Martijn: Do you think Cassie is really a ghost, or just Adamís imagination. Maybe his inner demon?
Rob: If Iím reading American Virgin like I think I am, I think Cassie is a construction of Adamís faith and guilt. Seagle is covering some of the same ground as M. Night Shyamalan in the film Signs, namely that faith is crucial in a world as faithless as ours. Hopefully, Cassieís prognostications donít come to fruition like the preacherís wifeís dying words in Signs! Hormones and environment are working against Adam throughout this series. Or are they? We, the reader, are struggling right along with Adam, which makes for a fun and insightful read unlike anything currently offered on the shelves. By the way, what do you make of Cassie, Martijn?
Martijn: Donít know yet! Cassie and Adam took an oath of saving themselves for each other. But she seems to have broken that special bond by having a fling with someone else. I feel for Adam and donít think she has the right to interfere in his life. She is dead! Give it a rest (haha)! But like you stated, Cassie is probably more a construction of Adamís faith and guilt than the persona Cassie.
Rob: One of my past impressions of Seagle was that he tries too hard to make his overall point plain to the reader. Do you think thatís the case with American Virgin?
Martijn: Absolutely not. I think the strength of this book is that Seagle juggles different philosophies on life without preaching the right and wrongs. Life isnít black and white but a lot of grey. In my mind those different views on the world are what make human interaction so wonderful. I see Seagle more as a messenger trying to get some vibrant colors into the grey areas of life than preaching us what to think. The strength of his writing in American Virgin is not providing answers, but bringing up some interesting discussion points to wrap you brain around.
Rob: I totally agree with you. I just wanted to see if you would get riled up like I did when this point was addressed to me! Speaking of the other creator in this issue, I love Ryan Kellyís work on Local. What do you think of his art in American Virgin #19, especially compared to Becky Cloonanís previous work?
Martijn: Iím loving his art! Local is brilliant. Ryan Kelly makes talking heads vibrant. His facial expressions and composition of the panels make Adam and Vanessa come alive. By the way, it was Brian Woodís work that got me into Ryan Kelly and Becky Cloonan. I think Cloonan is a great artist and the best female artist currently working in the comic business. The style of Kelly and Cloonan is working great for American Virgin.
Rob: Yeah, Beckyís my girl! Her art has made this series more than just an interesting story. So, letís play a little hardball: Enquiring minds want to know! Do you think Adam and Vanessa went all the way?
Martijn: Rob, you have a dirty mind (haha), as do I! Well, I hope for Adamís sake that he popped his cherry, because this boy most be exploding with testosterone. Poor VanessaÖ
But if they did, Adam is a guy who takes his responsibilities seriously, so there is no way that they are doing unsafe sex. But if so, did he buy a condom or condoms (haha) in advance or when he booked the hotel room?
Rob: I have the dirty mind? Yeah, poor Vanessa is right! Even with some rubbers, she probably bounced off the ceiling! Okay, on to a more serious topic, Martijn. How do you see this series continuing, with the possible deflowering and potential marriage of our main character. The title is American Virgin, after all!
Martijn: Well if the city of love, Paris, did her job, then he is no longer a virgin, right?
So if he gets married, what will happen to his business of being a virgin? Can he still give lectures about how to "Save Yourself"? I think he has to buy a new t-shirt (haha)!
Rob: Yeah, one that reads "I got laid in Paris and all I got was this stupid t-shirt"! Sorry about thatÖ Anyway, Iím a big believer that true love is cultivated and strengthened during the mundane periods of a relationship. Do you see romantic disaster looming for Adam and Vanessa?
Martijn: They just started having a relationship! You already want a disaster for Adam and Vanessa? What kind of pervert are you (haha)? Probably the same as me! Turmoil must be around the corner, because this is American Virgin, but please Rob, just let me enjoy this romantic moment in issue #19.
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