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Yaoi Review: Adamo Anthology

November 08, 2010 | | Comments 10 |

Adamo Anthology Cover

Art and Character Design: This is an anthology so the artwork varies — in this case from just ok to pretty good with the feel being manga-inspired Western indie (similar to The Book of Boy Trouble, but a bit more polished).

The first story (and cover art) by one of the project’s founders, Nuu, is among the strongest, especially in terms of the storytelling aspects. While Nuu’s draftsmanship and character design in “An Unbridled Imagination” felt like pretty standard American indie style to me, her command of expressions, layout, posing and potent imagery combine to fully immerse us in the story and perfectly captures the challenging nuances of Trillzey’s dark fantasy. And the cover, as you can see, is quite arresting.

Conversely, while the sketchy draftsmanship of Amei’s work on “Tuesday” felt fresh and lively to me, I had some difficulty following the story at times (which, to be fair, was partially the fault of inadequate tails in the lettering — just a faint curved line from the balloons — not to mention a strange time jump in the plot). Still, the challenging storytelling seemed to be a deliberate artistic choice as well with faces deliberately left out of frames and lots of canted angles. I left the comic wanting to see more pin-ups from this artist but completing unengaged by what I had just seen.

Rolic’s art in “Reverse” feels among the most manga/yaoi-inspired with lots of toning, manga action effects and chibi-flavored comedy beats. While there were several panels where the anatomy gets a little wonky, I found her character art cute and engaging and thought she did a great job showing us the rollercoaster emotions of this cracktastic pairing.

LMP’s scrawly work in “Second-Hand Fender Tele” felt the most unpolished to me, but there were some lovely panels I found compelling, including a full-page with a ghost hooked to the back of a boy’s guitar.

And then at the end there were a series of pin-ups by artists Wredwrat, metanomaly, Killer Monkey and Lara Yokoshima. They are all quite well done (Wredwrat’s work of two rockers on stage is particularly appealing), unfortunately some of the more rendered work (like Yokoshima’s) suffers by being printed on plain matte paper. If these could have been printed on glossy paper or in color, they would have made an outstanding addition. As it is, they feel a bit more like an afterthought.

Characters: This anthology centers on the theme of “Strange Love”, so it’s all about the interesting pairings and characters, baby. We’ve got a psychic reporter and a sociopath. a 16-year-old kidnapper and a 25-year-old “straight” police officer, a ghost and a boy and, well, I’m not really certain who the characters in “Tuesday” are supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure they were in a band together once, so let’s call them indie rockers with history. Definitely an interesting crew to spend some pages with.

Plot: OK, the first story “An Unbridled Imagination” is the best — and by best, I mean one of the best short comics of any genre I’ve read this year. Writer Trillzey tells us the story of a closeted telepath who gets caught in the web of a man who constantly fantasizes about torture and murder — and she pulls it off with Death Note like elegance. I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout its 38 pages and, unlike Death Note, found the ending completely satisfying.

The premise for the second story, “Reverse” — that a 25-year-old police officer in his underwear wakes up alone in a locked room with his 16-year-old captor — is preposterous. How they hook up is preposterous. The ending is preposterous. It is the very definition of “cracktastic” — how much that bugs you will depend on your tolerance of the crack. I rolled my eyes more than once, but I wasn’t bored…

On the other hand, the premise of “Second-Hand Fender Tele” is actually rather cool — a 23-year-old guy in the 1950s gets killed with his own guitar, is bound to it as a ghost and stuck in a guitar shop for decades until a 20-year-old boy who can see ghosts decides to buy the guitar to end the loneliness they both feel. (I use the term boy deliberately here because the character looks maybe 15 and is referred to by the 23-year-old looking ghost as “still a kid”.) Unfortunately, the execution doesn’t really go anywhere surprising and ultimately the payoff didn’t have any real impact for me.

And then there’s “Tuesday” which had the most true-to-life dialogue of all the stories along with a sense of real believable history between the characters, but ultimately was too opaque to penetrate. I think I get what the writer W2 was trying to do here — create a more challenging piece that requires you to read between the lines and pay close attention to reap a lovely emotional payoff — but even after four readings, I still am not sure who these characters are and what exactly happened. Here’s my best guess: After a long foreign journey, regular guy Will crashes at the apartment of his ex-boyfriend Joel who is depressed because the guy Joel left Will for, fellow bandmate Sam, has recently died and now Will wants to help Joel choose life again. Conflict and romance ensue and somehow in the middle of it (don’t ask me how because we don’t see it) Will gets a black eye, probably because Joel punched him (but again, we don’t see it, so can’t be sure.) Much like with “Second-Hand Fender Tele”, I was left feeling that an interesting premise had been squandered. That said, I’d definitely give W2’s future work a look — I might not feel like I really know these characters, but they certain felt completely human to me.

Romance: The romance in “An Unbridled Imagination” is cold and interesting. I imagine this is what good Light and L slash is like.

The romance in “Reverse” is completely preposterous. But let’s face it, no one is going to be reading this story to be swept up in the mystery and magic that is human love. I will say, in between all the non-con, there is a certain sweetness to it.

Besides a kiss on the cheek and confessions of loneliness, there is barely any romance at all in “Second-Hand Fender Tele”. The boys are pretty, though, in their blotchy way.

And then there’s “Tuesday” which seems to be mostly about mourning and nostalgia, so even the kissing seems sad. But there is kissing, it offers some hope for the future and the connection between Will and Joel feels believable to me. I’m not sure what the hell exactly happened in this comic, but I do believe these guys have genuine affection and that they are, at least in this moment, really good for each other. Thus “Tuesday” wins the prize for the most romantic story in the entire book.

This is a yaoi anthology centering on “Strange Love”, but romance isn’t the reason to get it.

Sex: In “An Unbridled Imagination”, there are kisses. None of it’s hot. And that’s ok.

There’s just the kiss on the cheek in “Second-Hand Fender Tele”. Again, not hot.

There’s a lovely make-out scene at the end of “Tuesday” with lots of interesting, partially obscured angles. But in the context of all this mourning and prickliness, you can practically hear the emo soundtrack in the background encouraging you to have a catharsis. So, no, still not hot.

Oh, but you wanted the hot? Well, “Reverse” is going to try its damnedest to give you the hot. It offers mutual masturbation, frottage, bondage, nipple play, full-on anal sex, spurting fluids and two flavors of rape all with completely unobscured large, dark, veiny penises. Not enough kink for you? How about the fact that one of the participants is a 16-year old boy. And I don’t mean a wink-wink, nudge, nudge, young guy in a Japanese High School uniform who is “in college”, but rather an actual, clearly identified as “underage boy” by the dialogue, 16-year-old kid who is on the receiving end of non-con for your reading pleasure. Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it.

Production Value: This is a self-published anthology, but with Canadian printing, bright white paper stock and a lovely full-color cover that makes use of some very nifty embossing, the production value is as good as or better than any other black-and-white yaoi book out there. Those pin-ups at the end should ideally have been printed on nicer paper to show them off better, but speaking as a self-publisher myself, I can see where the expense in doing that would have been cost-prohibitive.

Overall: So, should you buy this book? If it were $9.99, it would be a no-brainer—buy it just for the first story alone (or the cracktastic, envelope-pushing second one, if that’s more your thing.) But it’s $15.00 not including the (to be fair, completely reasonable) $4 shipping. Now, that’s just a couple of dollars more than what DMP might charge for the same thing (and they’d use lower quality paper) but it’s real money for a book with one really strong story, one story full of sex and two stories that in one way or another are just ok. Based on content alone, I have to say, it’s a mixed bag. But having met the publishers in person at two cons, I can tell you they are lovely people, that this project is worth supporting because I think future volumes will only get better, that we need really good Western yaoi anthologies and that the first story honestly is fantastic. So, for those reasons, you should buy this book—and, in the end, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

(That said, if you’re living in the U.S. or Canada and you’re going to receive this book in the mail or cross state lines with it, read about the legal status of comics with content such as that found in “Reverse”.)

The Web site states “Warning: Adult Material” but this book is not specifically age-rated by the publisher. Based on the explicit sex in “Reverse”, though, I believe a mainstream publisher would rate this 18+.

Full disclosure: I received this book as a complementary copy provided to me by the publisher for review.

Summary from the publisher’s website:

Adamo anthology is a project designed to showcase the newest and brightest boys love artists and writers that create in the English language. The goal of adamo anthology is to create high-quality English-language boys love comics that are easily accessible via internet and conventions, and we hope that adamo will draw attention to the gay comic artists and writers that are extremely talented in their areas.

Each volume of adamo will contain a unifying theme that the creators must address or interpret in their work. Volume 1 of adamo anthology features works centered around the theme “Strange Love”. From foreign ambassadors to ghosts, men with three arms and immoral policemen, the stories created for this volume depict love between men and how strange those loves can sometimes be.

We’re living in interesting times for Western yaoi. Not only are there some excellent full-color, yaoi webcomics being published right now (I’m looking at you Starfighter and Teahouse), but there are two, count ‘em two, Western yaoi boys love anthologies coming out at once. (I’ll review Crown Royale next time—but actually, seeing as they only printed 250 copies, I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that you should buy it right now.)

I had heard of Adamo Anthology in advance because I’d met the publishers at NYCC and had the chance to read their excellent debut, Honeydew Syndrome, on the plane flight home. They are clearly committed to putting out high-quality work, they appear to have a strong following of loyal fans and as a fellow self-publisher, it’s exciting to witness their skill in execution and consequent success.

And what they are creating with this book is unique and special. Despite my criticisms, I will say that what I read in these pages is superior to the vast amount of work put out by DMP and other yaoi publishers right now. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I haven’t been putting up reviews lately—all the yaoi work I’ve been reading lately has simply been a big meh and there’s no point in me putting reviews up where I just go “meh!”.

But Adamo Anthology definitely takes us places we haven’t been before (or at the very least takes us to some familiar places in ways that aren’t so familiar in English yaoi publishing.) And that is, overall, a very good thing.

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About the Author: Filmmaker by day, yaoi creator by night, Alex has dedicated himself to helping cute guys fight evil and find love.

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  1. gynocrat says:

    Hey gorgeous.

    “And what they are creating with this book is unique and special. Despite my criticisms, I will say that what I read in these pages is superior to the vast amount of work put out by DMP and other yaoi publishers right now. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I haven’t been putting up reviews lately—all the yaoi work I’ve been reading lately has simply been a big meh and there’s no point in me putting reviews up where I just go “meh!”.”

    And yet…anything from Japan is still better than anything from the states. ^_- *shakes fist*

    I loved this anthology because I’ve followed some of the writers and artists in it for some time now. My only crit was the illustrations. I didn’t think they belonged and editorially I don’t think I would’ve included them. The stories were strong enough on their own; no filler was needed.

    The underage sex didn’t bother me at all – but let’s be real here, our culture in general has a fascination with the sexual and emotional lives of teens [just look at top rated shows that center around "20 something actors" playing teenagers.] Also, just because DMP and BLU et al magically age the characters of the books they license to meet the legal US requirement, doesn’t mean they aren’t producing the same sort of strange. There’s an undercurrent of understanding with BL fen that high school boys really are underage and if they’re having sex with each other, teachers, or their own older relatives… well, that’s just a hallmark of the strange that draws us to the genre. ^_^

    I love seeing complicated relationships; I’m also a fan of guro and other strange themes that have flourished in the indy GloBL scene [and by scene, I mean the countless webcomics and comic galleries hosted at y! and smackJeeves]. I’m one of those readers who hopes that these ladies keep producing themselves – because I think being published in our market by the publishers available in our market, would just set boundaries that I don’t think are needed in GloBL.

    • Howdy Tina!

      Nice to see you here. :) Yep, I certainly think that Western BL can offer things that we're just not seeing in the yaoi that's currently being imported from Japan and translated into English. Now, maybe I just haven't read the right books or maybe it's my own cultural limitations, but the GloBL works I've been reading lately (including yours), I've just found a lot more compelling. It's very exciting to read the work that's currently coming out.

      The underage sex didn't bother me at all – but let's be real here, our culture in general has a fascination with the sexual and emotional lives of teens (just look at top rated shows that center around "20 something actors" playing teenagers.)

      Gosh, I hope I didn't give the impression that fictional teen sex bothers me! :) Obviously, considering the work I write, I think it's completely fair game for authors to explore that topic in fiction. (And I agree with you that based on how much Hollywood and primetime television cater to those themes, it's clear the interest is fairly universal.) As you know, I'm not wild about non-con period, and perhaps more so with a young character, but a comic with a 16-year-old character who has sex certainly isn't going to harsh my mellow.

      And I too share your hope that the makers of Adamo Anthology continue to self-publish. I think their work is only going to get stronger and, based on my experience with a story like "An Unbridled Imagination", I believe they have a good chance of creating really great literature, regardless of genre.

  2. Maeve says:

    Heya! Thanks for the review, Alex! I didn't make it Yaoi Con (being in Toronto and having a 7-year old daughter with no family to care for her whilst I gaily trapeze around Boys Love lol!), but I wanted to support some of the fine sequential artists in the West who know of the value of this communication medium and have talent to convey their message with impact!

    So, now, armed with your little review tidbits here, I'm off to seek out online purchasing of Teahouse, Starfighter (read this one online–I agree; it's awesome!), and Crown Royale! I'm particularly excited about that last one since I just finished a college class on Folk Tales and their universal human themes and purposes.

    Did you get a copy of Cruel to be Kind and/or In These Words from Guilt Pleasure? I was curious about that circle of artists/storytellers too. I'd be interested in what you thought of those two doujins. The art looks amazingly palpable!

    • Howdy!

      You're very welcome. It's a shame you couldn't come to YaoiCon, but seems like you had a very good reason. :D Hopefully, you'll be able to come soon and we'll get a chance to chat in person. It's a lot of fun there.

      And good for you for supporting these artists. If you like Starfighter online, you won't be disappointed with the book — very nice print quality and some lovely extras at the end. I got a chance to meet Hamlet Machine while I was there and she's a real sweetheart—just as cool in person as she is online. Teahouse is of course gorgeous; while I haven't seen the printed copies, I can only imagine that they are a real treat. And I really enjoyed the comics in Crown Royale —it focuses on the humor so there are several laugh-out-loud moments. The print quality isn't quite up to the art book quality of Starfighter, but it's all for charity and I don't think you'll be disappointed. B)

      I didn't get copies of those doujins, but I did get a chance to meet and chat with Jo Chen—another really lovely person. And her art is, of course, gorgeous.

  3. sflyte120 says:

    Hey everyone,

    I have no idea if this is quite the right place to post this, but I just stumbled across eManga.com and its rental system. All you yaoi pros probably already know about it but I had no idea there was a place you could easily and cheaply rent yaoi (without the nice old ladies at the local library looking at me funny ….). Also, I don't want to rob authors, but I also don't necessarily want to own all the yaoi I read (any more than I want to do that with most books) so … rental seems pretty great.

    Anyway, this is probably not news to anyone else but as a bit of a n00b in this department I was pleased to make the discovery.

    Also, Alex, this is my new favorite website. You are making the grad school application process so much less rough! :)

    ~S.Flyte.

    • Howdy S.Flyte,

      I'm glad to hear you've had such a good experience with eManga—I know others who have had the same—but yep, it's a bit off-topic. Your comment actually made me wonder if this was a legitimate comment or part of a marketing push by DMP (the folks behind eManga). I always reserve the right to moderate or delete inappropriate comments from Yaoi 911, but you seem like a legit person and in the end I decided to just edit out the direct link to their site, but keep everything else in your comment intact. I'd rather err of the side of believing in my readers (who are the coolest people on the planet.) And as a yaoi "n00b", I certainly want you to feel welcome here. :)

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm glad reading this site is helping you through your grad school application process. I wish you luck in getting into the school of your choice!

  4. If anybody who lives in Canada is courageous enough to order the Adamo Anthologies, let me know about the results. If it has been opened and yet you got no problems, I order it for sure!

  5. [...] Woolfson on vol. 1 of Adamo Anthology (Yaoi 911) Nick Smith on vol. 1 of Arisa (ICv2) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 4 of Biomega (The Comic [...]

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