more on American Virgin

I had the highest of hopes for AMERICAN VIRGIN. IT’S A BIRD showed Seagle was a thoughtful guy, Becky Cloonan‘s name speaks for itself, and covers by Quitely were icing on the cake.

But I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed by a comic. I hate every character. They don’t talk like any human I’ve ever met (and I grew up in the South). Their actions make no logical sense. The plot barrels along from one non sequitur setpiece to another, leaving no time for the characters to reflect or talk about their feelings, or even to have consistent personalities. The sole purpose of the dialogue is to lay out the plot or set up one of Seagle’s terrible jokes. Pithy lines are spit out at the end of scenes, smacking us in the face with the force of how clever and insightful they must be, when in fact they’re as weirdly illogical and out-of-place as everything else in this damn book. It’s like Brian K. Vaughan without the heart, or the logic.

Issue 4, pp 1-4:
[backstory: Adam is a young, hyper-Christian, motivational speaker for abstinence. African terrorists have captured and killed his fiancee. Previously he found her body, but it had been beheaded. Adam, his sister Cyndi, and their hired mercenary Mel are driving a Jeep through the desert to get her head back.]
ADAM: Hurry the fuck up! [page turn]
CYNDI: Language, Adam. You’re Christian, remember? And could you also remember that you were goin’ to Mozambique, claiming your fiancee’s body, and taking it back to Florida? ‘Cause that’s all I agreed to! Not off-roading to Swahili for–
MEL: Swaziland.
CYNDI: Are we payin’ you to drive, Mel? Or to correct me?
ADAM: It’s not her whole body. Part of it is missing. Do you understand, Cyndi? Do you get that?
CYNDI: Sure, I get it. Like all guys, you’re looking for a little head–

Yeah.

[the jeep hits a rock and flips onto its side. The characters emerge from the car and yell at each other for a while. Adam screams at Mel that they’ll never catch the terrorists now.]
MEL: Swazi’s smaller than Rhode Island, mate– Help me drop the Jeep and we’ll be in Mbane before you can say– [page turn]
ADAM: Jesus save me!
CYNDI: Drop the Jeep with what? A crane? Want me to call AAA– the African Automobile Association?
MEL: Like anything, ya just need the strength to make it happen. [he starts pushing the Jeep]
ADAM: I have faith. [he joins Mel in pushing the Jeep]
MEL: Didn’t say “faith.” I said strength.
ADAM: They’re the >NHH< same– thing!
MEL: Are they?
[the Jeep flips back onto its wheels.]
ADAM: Yeah. They are. Let’s go.

Sounds nice, if you don’t think about it too hard. But no, it’s one of the clunkiest bits of dialogue I’ve read in months.

Even Cloonan’s work seems crippled on this book — characters are often awkwardly posed, looking like their heads are about to snap off or their eyeballs to erupt from their sockets. I absolutely love her work, so a) I think she deserves better than this book, but also b) I think she’s miscast, and this would be a stronger book with a different artist.

AMERICAN VIRGIN is starting to remind me of a Ross Campbell comic. I don’t enjoy him either, but at least that’s a matter of taste, not of competence.

I’ve only read through #4 — maybe once Adam resolves the girlfriend thing he’ll stop being such an inconsistent psychotic douchebag — but my hopes are no longer high. It’s gotta slow down the pacing, polish the dialogue, give us more time with the characters, and take the time to make the logic of each step in the story more coherent. Show us a character actually learning something. Show me a character I can like.

I want to keep getting this book for historical reasons, and because I hope it will improve, but our shelves are filled with overpretentious underexecuted shortlived Vertigo series from the 90s. I won’t hold out forever.

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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