Lip service: American Virgin #1

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When Vertigo released the cover art for American Virgin #1, I was immediately taken with it.

It's by Frank Quitely, and I like Frank Quitely. Beyond that, though, it's a beautiful and disturbing image. It shouts, "Buy me," or perhaps something a little more explicit.

American Virgin, by Steven T. Seagle and Becky Cloonan, is about Adam Chamberlain, a 20-year-old youth minister who spearheads a national virginity movement. It's a comic about all things carnal -- and if Quitely's cover is anything, it's carnal.

The enormous open mouth is both erotic and grotesque. Quitely shows us every warty taste bud on the tongue, and every crack and crease on the lips. The depiction moves past the overt sexual aspects of the human mouth to become something undeniably yonic.

Chaste Adam oozes sexuality as he sprawls on the heart-shaped tongue, his bunched pants serving as a codpiece and drawing attention to his crotch. He's about to be consumed, but he doesn't seem to care.

I had wondered how the cover would hold up once the trade dress was added; after all, Quitely didn't leave much room. The top, at least, works. The logo is whimsical and slightly retro, reminding me of Love, American Style, for some reason. Things get a bit shaky after that, though, with the creators' names wedged in under the logo, and the tagline -- "From the Bible Belt to the Chastity Belt" -- appearing almost as an afterthought.

Still, even with those typographic shortcomings, it's an arresting cover.

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