First Time

Written by Sibylline
Art by Alfred, Virginie Augustin, Dominique Bertail, Capucine, Jérôme d’Aviau, Dave McKean, Cyril Pedrosa, Rica, Olivier Vatine, and Vince
112 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

What happens when art meets erotica? In the case of First Time, that seems to be exactly what the book is trying to find out. Writer Sibylline and ten different comic artists team up for a wide variety of "first time" stories, each with the artist’s own signature style. The end result, though? Despite one writer on each of these ten stories, the book’s contents are wildly variable in terms of tone and quality.

The book opens with one of the strongest pieces, "First Time" as drawn by Why I Killed Peter‘s Alfred. A woman tells her lover about her very first time she has sex, and the result is touching and sweet. From her plans on bringing the guy over, to how he (and she) reacts afterwards, it’s a heartfelt story with a nice ending moment. Alfred’s art is in fine form here, too; there’s a panel where she’s lying on her current partner’s chest and idly scratches it that just feels very familiar and comfortable, and the panel where her arm and hand holding a wine glass is overlaid six times does a great job of showing nervousness and speed and quantity all at once.

"Fantasy" drawn by Jérôme d’Aviau is certainly the steamiest of the stories here—in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the only actual steamy story in the entire book. This helps in part because of d’Aviau’s crisp, clean art; I love how he draws both of the main characters here, in an attractive manner (both physically and also just general art style). For a story about dominance and fantasies playing out, Sibylline hits the pacing just right, slowly amping up the tension and bringing the climax of the story (no, not that kind) at just the right moment.

There are some other pieces in the book that have really nice art, too. Virginie Augustin’s art in "1 + 1" is a beautiful, loose style that reminds me a lot of Ronnie del Carmen’s illustrations, with a relaxed, gorgeous sensibility to the entire story. Olivier Vatine’s "Club" art as well is attractive is good too, reminding me a lot of Cully Hamner’s art with its strong jaws and heavy ink lines. And of course, anyone who read Cyril Pedrosa’s Three Shadows will know that his art in "Possession" is strong and attractive. The stories themselves, though, grow tiresome as the book progresses; none of those stories themselves are terribly interesting, the book itself falling into a bad pattern that lack a lot of the inventiveness of the opening pieces. Only "Nobody" (narrated by an inflatable doll) has any real cleverness in the latter half of the book, but once you get past the initial idea, it too falls flat. People who pick up First Time for Dave McKean’s contribution will probably be a little disappointed; it doesn’t feel like it plays to either of the creators’s strengths. Wordless and muddled-looking with lots of shades of brown, it makes me wonder if McKean knew this was going to be in black and white, because pages are often look like a big smear of dirt.

First Time is a good idea (Alternative Comics published two volumes of a similar book titled True Porn), but the book seems to really lose a lot of its originality and drive after the first half. Still, the art is mostly nice, and it’s certainly a mostly "classy" erotic book to have on one’s coffee table. (Or hidden away, if you so choose.) I wish the second half of the book lived up to the first half’s promise, but at least my first time with First Time wasn’t so bad, right?

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