Tom Bouden, Author MAX & SVENTom Bouden

Belgian comic artist Bouden's U.S. debut is a breezy and refreshingly angst-free tale that traces Max's gay sexual awakening from preteen friskiness to furtive all-boys school rendezvous and, finally, full-blown love when he meets Sven. When Max finally summons up his courage to confess his feelings, he must deal with the fact that Sven's feelings are not mutual. The friendship survives and grows. Along the way, Max's awkwardness and youthful paranoia are played for laughs, sometimes outrageously. The first 60 pages are Max and Sven's tale; the rest of the book is composed of one- or two-page sexy and humorous vignettes from Bouden's syndicated work, some of it dating back to 1994. One episode shows two men having sex while thought bubbles betray their complaints of sandpaper kisses, awkward positions and aching jaws only to end with both exclaiming, "That was the best sex I ever had!" Bouden's agreeably friendly drawings somewhat resemble Howard Cruse's Wendel strip. Both artists chronicle the social, political and sexual life of a gay community filled with witty, attractive (but not overly buff), sexually active men with normal neuroses and strong camaraderie. The art is sexually explicit (especially in the later vignettes), but the images aren't meant to be erotic. The playful frankness seems designed to demystify and normalize sexual activities between two (or among 10) men. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
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