It's not a sequel to those films about pie, don't sweat it.

*Blogger enjoys error messages! No mere browser can overcome their power!

*Nothing tickles me more (Moore?) than spotting a fresh interview with the Magus, bearing the brand of a ‘rare’ interview with that reclusive Northampton citizen, doubtlessly having been set up via secret knock upon a door in an alley somewhere and the recitation of several passwords; sure, the guy’s not exactly Joe Quesada, but he’s still a relatively constant presence among comics-saturated folk. Or maybe it’s just ‘rare’ in non-comics media terms? Entertainment Weekly rolled out the banner, and now here comes MTV, with a new chat focused squarely on Moore and movies. It's short, single-minded, and really sort of irritating, but the former Curt Vile of Sounds fame handles himself well, and launches into a more detailed critique of the version of the screenplay he read, lambasting the Wachowskis and company as “people too timid to set a political satire in their own country,” and declaring the work “…a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives…”

On that note, do enjoy the included link to MTV’s ‘Think Reel’ site for the film, “…and learn how you can take action, fight intolerance, hold elected officials accountable and more - in your own community and beyond.” Recipes for poisoned Communion wafers, then? (found at the NYC Mech board)

American Virgin #1

This actually came out last Wednesday, but I didn’t manage to find a copy until this week. I was a bit too intrigued to just let it sit without any comment, though.

You see, I’m a product of abstinence education. That was how it went back in Catholic school, in what they called ‘sex ed.’ I did learn about the inner workings of the reproductive process, certainly, and many tastefully transparent diagrams were provided. We were instructed as to the details of involuntary bodily functions, sundry emissions, and the details as to the development of the fetus. The nature of AIDS was laid out in perfectly rational, accurate detail. I think they might have mentioned condoms in there too, though god knows we weren’t shown how to put them on (that is, after all, what Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean were around for). I already knew what a condom did - a kid on my little league team had asked me when I was about 9, and I instantly replied “A building or something,” having just learned the term ‘condo’ from the hit Saturday morning cartoon Camp Candy. “No you retard, it’s something you put on your wiener when you have sex!!” Oh. Well that cleared that up.

And just as how the true nature of contraceptives broke right through, so did the appeal of sexuality. Naturally, abstinence was drilled into our heads again and again, starting about as early as it could without the more sensitive parents complaining about the subject merely being broached in class, but these things turned out to be about as effective as those promise forms we were all made to fill out in 5th grade drug awareness lectures, putting signature and seal to our individual vows never ever to imbibe, inhale, inject or absorb any illicit substances. The ‘letter to Santa’ front of the War on Drugs. Kids will sign whatever Teacher places before them, but those little papers were exchanged for other little papers soon enough, all efforts at dissuading the class from risking the hallucinogenic domination of marijuana analogous to informing a room full of 15-year old boys that masturbation is a sin. Eventually the outrage died down, and some of the freshman wits began indulging their fast-developing sense of the tongue-in-cheek. “You’re right Teacher! Whenever I feel funny I’ll just… take a nice walk!!” Can’t blame Teacher - we also couldn’t select topics for speech class that opposed Church doctrine, and there was a whale of a time showing films that involved any sort of explicit content (one of my best memories involved a History teacher of mine, a outgoing nun, who wanted to show the class Steven Spielberg’s Amistad - she began the class by telling us that she didn’t think we were allowed to watch it, and that we should thus be extra careful in listening for signals from her as she stood by the door and watched to see if anyone was coming). No sex? Yeah, we’ll listen.

In class.

All of these thoughts came rushing back to me as I paged through American Virgin, Vertigo’s latest ongoing series, from writer Steven T. Seagle (of Vertigo notables House of Secrets and It’s a Bird!) and artist Becky Cloonan (of Demo fame, her solo East Coast Rising due out soon from Tokyopop). I have to confess the latter really got my attention - her constantly shifting visual approaches to Demo, a veritable tour of style, got an awful lot of people excited. She’s necessarily more subdued here, settling into a nicely light shoujo-type style with her character designs (and maybe I’m projecting, but I caught just a hint of extra bishounen sparkle from the pretty boy on Frank Quitely’s already-famous cover), with some good wrinkly exaggeration used for the older folk (nice John Waters mustache on Dad!). There might be some interesting stuff up for grabs in the future though, the very last page suddenly sporting extra thick lines and hard scratches to emphasize the shift in emotional tone on display. A somewhat jarring effect, but it works well.

But when I talk of emotional tones shifting, I refer to an extreme of fear, a sudden plunge into intense darkness. It takes something that big to stand out in this book, since there’s actually lot of other tiny zigs and zags in mood, enough so that the book doesn’t really establish any sort of overarching feel. The plot involves the conveniently named Adam, a popular youth abstinence preacher who’s expected to take the reins of his father’s evangelical Christian television network. He talks of saving one’s self for marriage, of finding just the right time to give it over to that special someone, and he’s constantly bombarded with problems. Aside from his slithery parents (one biological, one not), who use terms like “liberal pagan hell” in private conversation and spar , he also has an unreliable pothead brother, a pair of scummy, jealous cousins, an ostracized punkish sister , and a beloved girlfriend off in Africa with the Peace Corps.

All of these characters figure into this first issue, all of them bringing some degree of trouble. The book thus veers swiftly from earnest character examination to sex comedy to satire to thriller; I imagine that this could have been turned to good use, except all of this introduction and bouncing around also serves to prevent anything beyond the barest notion of the book’s premise, and the lack of any consistent narrative drive coupled with a lack of any permanent tone leaves the book feeling utterly confused, as if it’s arrived on Direct Market shelves and it now doesn’t know what to do with itself, especially after that seemingly big revelation at the end. It does, however, convert the chapter title of ‘Head’ of a gloriously evil joke, I’ll give it that.

I mean, I suppose I could have looked up the premise online or something, but I don’t think a new book should require that for it to develop a coherent identity; fellow recent Vertigo launch DMZ (featuring another Demo vet, Brian Wood) also didn’t reveal all that much about its story background in its initial issue, but at least it gave the impression of knowing where it was going, letting the reader trust in its rollout. Which isn’t to say that this is an awful first issue, just an uninviting one, though there’s a few good character moments. I genuinely like Adam’s honest approach to dealing with his everyday situation. The book sometimes pokes fun at the circus his ministry has become (love that extreme biking interlude), though there’s some swell moments of genuine impact, like Adam turning away a pretty young girl’s advances, only to lock her lusty note away in a box he keeps after he’s zapped her with his magic powers.

Oh, right. That. I don’t think Adam really has literal magic powers, but Seagle is working in an odd form of shorthand while depicting Adam’s ministry. In this world, it takes only a few, decidedly familiar words to reduce a person to questioning jelly.

I want you to live the life that God expects of you… that you should expect of yourself. Will you do that? For me?”

I… I will,” stammers the girl that just seconds before had tried to seduce Our Hero.

Pages later, a hired prostitute straddles Adam, rips his shirt off, and gets mighty fresh.

I love someone. More than anything. I’m saving myself. Touching me like that, you -- you’re taking that away from us. And more than that, you’re making that touch mean nothing to you. You’re selling the one unknowable thing about you, the only mystery you have to give someone as a true gift.”

That’s all it takes to get her eyes widening, the girl immediately freeing him from the chair he’s handcuffed to and staring plaintively into his eyes as he preaches about God, not humoring him whatsoever. His powers are truly vast. And lord help me, all I could think of were those endless lectures back in school, all that abstinence education, and how used to it we all got. That’s what this material sounds like to me, and you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t really buy the cutting power of Adam’s words, so plain they are. Maybe Seagle realizes this too, as several mentions are made of the amazing charisma the protagonist has, just in case it doesn’t come across on the page. It just seems like magic to me, something unbelievable.

Hey - maybe that’s where this thing’s going! Magical spiritual realism! That actually sounds pretty fun. And there’s about as good a chance of that happening as anything else, at least from what we get here. It’s not that bad a book, but I can’t call it good, not yet.