Sunday, January 15, 2017

Small Favors by Colleen Coover

Rating: WORTHY!

I haven't reviewed a Net Galley graphic novel in a while, but there hasn't been much come up which has interested me. In their latest flyer this was the only one that I thought might be worth my time, and in the end I wasn't quite sure of that to begin with. I was won over by the playfulness and sheer exuberance of the stories. As I intimated, this is an advance review copy for which I thank the publishers.

I wasn't at all familiar with Colleen Coover's work, but I am now! Note that this isn't all she does, because when I tell you this is a graphic graphic novel for adult-only audiences which features explicit and what many might consider even kinky sex, you might wonder where she's coming from. Well, I can't speak or her, but for her characters, it's obvious where they're coming from!

The comic is a series of stories, with mini-stories interleaved, and separate by title pages which are done in grey-scale. Nearly all of the art is black and white line drawings which for me were charming and well done. I enjoyed them so much that I had some trouble adapting to the color section which is contained towards the middle. It felt really odd after I'd become so comfortable with the original artwork, but it wasn't bad at all - the line work was the same and the coloring was nicely done.

The inventive tack taken here is that main character Annie is called onto the mat by her conscience for excessive masturbating. Apparently at the age of twenty-one, she's already used up her lifetime allotment of "sexual self-abuse" as it used to be termed. I confess I never knew there was one!

A part of her conscience named Nibbil (which is misspelled Nibble at one point in the comic) is assigned to her twenty-four-seven to keep her on the straight and narrow, but this only results in her avidly exploring the bent and wide, since Nibbil is at least as big of a nymphomaniac as Annie. Happily, the two fall in love, but this doesn't prevent them exploring their sexuality with others. One thing I really did like about this was the brief interludes. No, this is not about girls wearing briefs and being lewd, it's a series of mini stories scattered through the main collection. How to spank Girls was hilarious.

The obvious candidate would seem to be Annie's next door, and single, neighbor, a young Asian woman about whom Annie fantasizes daily, but this doesn't happen (not immediately!). Instead they encounter another lesbian who is feeling lonely, an African American woman named sage. Soon the three of them are bosom buddies - in every sense of the phrase. This sparks a whole new set of stories. The sweet thing about this is the love between Annie and Nibbil, which is never lost sight of, no matter what adventures they get into.

The stories were for the most part highly amusing, such as when they play doctors which I thought was funny, as was the jungle adventure fantasy in which Annie and Nibbil take part, but be warned that every one of the stories is focused on sex. Even a trip to a yard sale ends up with them nude and passionate. They really have no life that doesn't involve sex!

Some potential fans might find that a turn off since there really isn't much story here. Others might find it a bit repetitive. I might have classed myself in those groups if the stories had not been so playful, unabashed, amusing, enthusiastic, and yes, even innocent in a weird, juvenile, exploratory way. The characters are all so likable and passionate, particularly Annie and Nibbil, that you can't help but appreciate them.

I have to mention that safe sex was not a concept here, which I found sad. Admittedly when having sex with the embodiment of her conscience, Nibbil, this wasn't an issue, but when they began to involve Sage and others, then at least a nod and a wink towards hygiene and safe sex needs to be in there, no matter how fleeting. There's nothing wrong with adventurous sex, but adventurous sex with multiple partners carries baggage that is neither erotic nor fun and which can be at best debilitating and at worst, deadly. Adventurous sex means trusting your partner(s), and this means informed consent and responsible sex. It's by no means incompatible with being erotic, and I think it's sad that more writers don't get this.

That said, I did like these comic stories. I really appreciated the author's sensibility about how the tales should be told. I think she got the tone right, and I consider them a worthy read for anyone who is interested in erotica in the comics.