Sunday, July 04, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 151 (7/4) -- First Time by Sibylline and various artists

Reviewing actual porn is very straightforward: a piece either achieves its purpose or it doesn't, so a quick thumbs up or thumbs down is easy. (Though I may be using "thumb" as a euphemism here.) It gets more tricky if a work wants to be both artsy and arousing, and a reviewer has to apply multiple overlapping frames of reference simultaneously. And comics always look smuttier and less artsy than the same story told in prose: words may be dirty, but pictures are always more so.

First Time is a collection of ten short stories about sex, all written by a woman calling herself Sibylline and all about someone doing something sexual for the first time, from a virgin in the first story to a couple having sex in front of a porn video in the last. Each story is exactly nine pages (plus a title page) and by a different European artist -- from Alfred (of Why I Killed Peter) to Cyril Pedrosa (of Three Shadows) to Dave McKean (the only artist mentioned in the back-cover copy, thus clearly the big draw). It was written in French -- and published in France -- before being translated by Joe Johnson for this American edition.

I was originally holding this book to do a paired review with the new edition of Guido Crepax's The Story of O: both were from NBM's Eurotica imprint, and were published in a large hardcover format within a few months of each other. But time slipped away, and now those "new" books are a year old each, and so they'll instead become fodder for the endlessly gluttonous Book-A-Day machine.

One reason I was going to review First Time with another book is that I suspected there wouldn't be much to say about it all by itself, and that's true -- the art is all good, and well varied; the sex is well-depicted, and (to my eye) mostly sexy rather than bluntly anatomical; the characters have at least one dimension besides the fact that they're having sex; and nothing about it is particularly embarrassing or grating. But it's still ten stories on pretty much the same theme, with a lot of sex lovingly depicted, and any reader's reaction to it will depend pretty heavily on the enjoyment of seeing those particular sex acts drawn well on the page. (Well, McKean's wordless and very impressionistic story is artistically interesting on its own, but it's something of an experiment to begin with.)

This is a classy book of smutty comics, and those smutty comics are themselves about as classy as such things ever are. First Time is about as good at doing what it sets out to do as anyone could expect, but you'll still want to hide it when the in-laws come over.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: The Swell Season (Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová) - Love That Conquers
via FoxyTunes

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