American Virgin #10
“Wet, Part 1 of 5”
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artists: Becky Cloonan & Christine Norrie
Colors: Brian Miller
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artist: Joshua Middleton
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price $2.99 US/$4 CAN
I know it’s only been three months since I wrote a full review of an issue of American Virgin, but the strength of this script and how it made me think about faith, religion and prophets wouldn’t allow me to let this issue just pass by without commentary. This title is a shining achievement for the creators and for DC’s Vertigo imprint, and the good news for those who haven’t sampled the series yet is that this 10th issue reads well all on its own. I was actually surprised to find this was the first chapter in a new five-part story arc rather than a standalone issue designed to expose the protagonist’s childhood. Seagle’s script is accessible and telling when it comes to the main character, but more importantly, he examines what it really means to connect with God and to represent Him. This story is full of sin, profanity and anger, yet somehow, it’s surprisingly Biblical in its depiction of one man’s relationship with God.
The plane on which Adam Chamberlain and his stepsister Cyndi were passengers has plunged into a lake, hundreds of miles short of its destination. As water fills the fuselage, Adam comes to believe his time on Earth is at an end and that he’ll be reunited with Cassie, the dead girl for whom he had saved himself for marriage, as per God’s direct instructions. But an angelic vision appears to him as water is about to fill his lungs. Cassie asks Adam to revisit his past, to swim through his memories, to learn the truth about his divine destiny.
The two-pronged approach to the art works well given the heavy use of flashbacks in this issue. Becky Cloonan provides the line art for those scenes set in the present, as a desperate Adam sees his life flash before his eyes as he’s about to drown. The flashbacks are illustrated by Christine (Cheat OGN) Norrie, and her simpler style reinforces the younger Adam’s innocence at earlier points in his life. Close inspection of her work reveals that the artist has made the effort to achieve a certain degree of consistency with Cloonan’s style while differentiating from it at the same time. I was particularly impressed with Cloonan’s portrayal of the angelic Cassie. There’s a cleaner look to that character, in keeping with her role as a divine messenger. And Brian Miller’s colors further reinforce that sense of heavenly purity.
Adam’s devotion to his message and to God really seems all the more impressive when viewed in the context of his childhood, as revealed in this standout issue. We see the anger, abuse and hypocrisy that served as the hostile nest in which this fledgling learned to fly. Adam is not an easy hero to like, but when one sees that he managed to shrug off the bitterness, cruelty and moral weakness that serve as his heritage, he shines. This look back at his origins and upbringing also serves as a nice, accessible look at his supporting cast of characters, several of which haven’t been seen since the first couple of issues.
The flashbacks also portray Cyndi in a rather flattering light, but Seagle doesn’t sugar-coat the character with her youth. Her edge is still maintained here, even in her innocent years as a tyke. Given the much more prominent role that this story indicates that Cyndi is to play in Adam’s life and his divine destiny, this examination of the relationship between the stepsiblings helps make an uncomfortable prospect more palatable and intriguing.
I’ve enjoyed American Virgin from the very first issue, but it occurred to me after reading this issue that I’m only beginning to understand it now. The book has been a brutally frank examination of western culture in terms of religion, sexuality and media, but now I see that this is actually a rather traditional parable about a prophet being tested by God. Adam’s story mirrors those from the Bible of people God tasked with impossible and socially embarrassing missions or destinies. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son purely on faith. Joseph was asked to accept a wife carrying a child that was not his own. Angels don’t come down and ask men and women to do great things and lead people; they ask them to do strange, inexplicable things. They prove their faith and worth by overcoming what’s asked of them, not by achieving. Adam is in the same position here, complete with angelic messenger. 10/10