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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Coming from the Eurotica imprint in March is this surprising adult-content volume examining a variety of “first time” sexual experiences that manages to be very frank in its depiction of physical sexuality, but somehow manages this without becoming pornographic. What results is a charming “adults only” anthology that makes for an entertaining and provocative coffee table book.

The exploration of one’s sexuality is among the most significant of the many universally shared adventures in the human experience and this collection of short stories opts to honor the “human” element of such gaining of knowledge by presenting characters that are all too recognizable as ordinary people and not the soulless, faceless automatons that populate so much of so-called erotica. The stories found here each deal with the intimacy and communication between lovers and even those engaging in solo activities, and that’s what gives this book much of its heart. Also unlike most illustrated erotic works, the art is uniformly of a high quality and the artists imbue their characters with a refreshing sense of life that’s utterly lacking in similar works that are more concerned with closeup renderings of enmeshed genitalia that evokes little or none of the physical and emotional pleasure they presumably try to express.

Displaying a distinctly European sensibility and written by a woman who identifies herself as Sybelline, these tales of first time experiences are themselves her first excursion into penning erotica. For a newbie, Sybelline’s works celebrate every tactile and olfactory facet of that most primal of physical connections with gleeful abandon, or as she so eloquently puts it in the book’s afterword, “Sex is foremost an exchange, an ultimate moment of self-abandon where one must know how to set aside prudishness and anxieties. We have sex because we love it, we discover ourselves, and we teach ourselves. I wanted to tell stories that are reminders that sex is beautiful and to say that what are excesses for some are but a tender normalness for others.”

Illustrated by different artists in a diverse variety of styles, the ten short stories cover a wide range of erotic happenstances including a sweet tale of a post-college age deflowering, one woman’s careful choosing of and “first date” with a brand new battery-powered toy, another’s foray into the world of threesomes, one man’s evening with his just-arrived lifelike sex-doll, a voyeur’s enjoyment of another woman’s multi-man adventure in a swinger’s club, a woman’s unexpected liberating awakening through submission, a loving girlfriend giving her bi-curious man a taste of being on the receiving end of a strap-on “pegging,” and even the melancholy realization that a lover from a spirited one-night stand will most likely never call again now that he’s gotten what he wanted.

The standouts for me, both scriptwise and visually, are “First Time” by Alfred, “Sex Shop” by Capucine, “1+1” by Virginie Augustine, and “Sodomy” by Dominique Bertail, the story that features easily the most impressive visuals in the entire volume. But the piece that might be of the most interest to mainstream comics readers is “X-Rated,” illustrated by Dave McKean, the guy who did the memorable covers for Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN, however I’m not that big of a fan of McKean’s non-cover work so this story ranks at the bottom of FIRST TIME’s attractions for me. But even with that stated caveat, each of the ten vignettes is well worth a read, but if you’re approaching FIRST TIME as a source for, er, “inspirational” reading material, you may be disappointed. If this is to be considered porn by any measure of the definition, it’s among the most high-minded I’ve ever come across — so to speak — and I highly recommend it to readers looking for something of a more artistic and involving caliber than the likes of HORNY BIKER SLUT or any of the legion of one-handed graphic entertainments.

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