Adam Chamberlain is a young man who seems to have it all: a lovely fiancée, a best-selling book and regular appearances on television. For most 20-year-olds, that’s the American Dream. But Adam has also done something that would seem practically un-American in this day and age: He has sworn off sex until marriage.
American Virgin is the new four-issue comic from DC’s Vertigo Press. In it, Adam stands as a symbol of virtue to thousands of evangelical Christian teens. His book is entitled Save Yourself to Save Yourself, and his campaign closely mirrors the True Love Waits movement. But Adam is surrounded by people who either want him to leave the path of celibacy or have that commitment twisted for their own gain.
In a scene from the first issue (just out at 32 pages, with subsequent issues due in April, May and June), a young woman comes up to the table where Adam is co-signing pledges by other teens to remain chaste until marriage. She hands Adam a note inviting him to an encounter outside. He takes this young woman aside and tells her she does not need him, but should wait for the man God wants her to have. Later, we see Adam secretly placing this note in a box with others like it.
It seems that Adam is not as dedicated to the cause as we are led to believe.
We also meet Adam’s mother, Mamie, and stepfather, Earl. Mamie’s first husband was governor of Florida, but got caught in an indiscretion. Earl is a TV evangelist oilier than the coast after a tanker spill. Mamie proclaims Adam a prophet for a new age. Earl just wants the boy on his TV show to boost ratings.
Adam also has some ne’er-do-well cousins who kidnap him and take him to a strip club, where they tie him to a chair and have a stripper perform for him. Adam protests the treatment and curses his cousins when he’s finally released.
This issue’s bombshell, however, is the fate of Adam’s fiancée, Cassie, who is on a mission trip to Africa. Her kidnapping by terrorists causes Adam’s world to turn upside-down and puts this story on its trajectory.
Steven T. Seagle is the writer of American Virgin. He achieved notoriety with his graphic novel It’s a Bird. Here, he takes on issues of faith, politics and terrorism.
The idea of American Virgin is intriguing. Adam knows that God wants him to wait for Cassie. God told Adam that he and Cassie would live a long and happy life together. But when Cassie’s life is threatened, Adam wonders about God. And we wonder about Adam.
Adam isn’t what he seems. He uses foul language and secretly longs for sex even as he preaches to the masses to wait. And he has some bad theology, declaring that sex outside marriage is a means of exclusion from salvation. “God doesn’t want you to make mistakes in this life that’ll lock you out of your afterlife with Him,” says Adam.
Seagle must believe what Paul wrote about all having sinned and come short of the glory of God. But he does not show a single character with any real virtue—even the one who proclaims abstinence before marriage.
Three issues are still to come, but so far American Virgin doesn’t rise above bashing evangelical Christians.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
Reviewer’s Note: This comic is labeled for “mature readers” and contains nudity and strong adult language.
Previous comics reviewed by Mike Parnell include: