Adam Chamberlain, lead character of the Vertigo comic America Virgin, is a really interesting character. As you probably know, he’s a leading advocate for sexual abstinence among the Christian Evangelical movement. However, Adam’s world has been turned upside down. His fiancé Cassandra has been killed, his parents are gold-diggers (and, we find out this issue, his father has a secret past), his relatives his age are very impious; even Jack’s fans can’t stop themselves from making passes at him.
In other words, Adam’s world is a complete mess.
And yet, at the same time, Adam still believes in his own righteousness. He’s continually fighting himself to stay true to his core values and feels very confused, but there’s no question that Adam’s motives are pure. Adam truly has a union with his view of God, which motivates him to do well. It’s just that Adam’s soul is constantly being pushed to do the wrong thing.
Probably the most self-revealing scene in this issue occurs when Adam is talking at Cassie’s funeral. Adam talks from the soul, tears rolling down his eyes, about his dreams of his life with Cassie, cut short by her death: “I wanted to be… oh, man, uh… inside of her. I’d been waiting my whole life to feel what that was like… with Cassie. I guess I’m not supposed to say things like that… but I don’t mean it in some pornographic way… I meant it in God’s way. I wanted to be married and feel Cassie’s body all around me — my — my cock, you know?” Adam wants sex, yes, but he also wants love, and fellowship, and wants to be a parent with Cassie, and, more than anything, he wants for the world that is believes in to really come true for him. Adam is truly an idealist, a man with a vision of the world he wants to live in, no matter how the real world might contradict that world. He’s a man with a vision, even if that vision is completely in opposition to that of everybody that surrounds him.
This makes Adam a fascinating character and a character very unique in comics. He’s severely flawed, and is motivated by self-interest, but his self-interest is dramatically different from that of any other comics character. Because Adam is constantly at war between his higher dreams and his baser instincts (shown in this issue by an erotic fantasy he has about Cassie), Adam’s life is wonderfully interesting. When he says “I’m God’s puppet” on page 21, what does Adam really mean? Yes, it parallels a scene earlier in the issue, but the phrase also implies something deeper about Adam.
Becky Cloonan’s art brings the story to a higher level. She’s terrific at the character-based content of this comic. I just love the way Cloonan draws Adam with tormented black eyes and depressed body language. His sister Cyndi with her tattoo and bold brown eyes is intriguing, and the way Cloonan draws Jack’s dissolute parents is wonderful. Cloonan is very strong at drawing people, which makes her a good fit for this comic.
I love the complex morality of this comic, and how it’s very much grounded in the real world. The story feels realistic, though one would never wish for a real person to go through the torment that Adam goes through. Watching Adam’s journey, though, has been fascinating.