Review by Frank Plowright
Sunstone is an interesting and possibly divisive series of graphic novels. While stunningly drawn, there’s little in the way of visual variety unless Stjepan Šejić produces a random page with ornately decorative borders, and the writing is very high on characters explaining themselves and considering their sexual preferences. So, unless you buy into the characters and situation very quickly, it might just be the most boring graphic novel you’ll ever read. Of course, enjoyable sex is very much about the tease and anticipation, and that’s something Šejić prolongs extremely well.
Šejić is dealing in fantasy, so the almost all women cast is visually offered as minor variations of perfect beauty, factoring in a fondness for shades of red hair. This is contrasted by the writing, where Sunstone doesn’t always deal in idealised presentation. Ally, nominally the dominant in the central BDSM relationship, has her own insecurities, and revealing them makes a far more rounded person overall. Most sexual fiction also sidesteps a night of passion being followed by the discovery that one partner snores, and very loudly. It’s such observations that prevent Sunstone becoming too precious about matters.
It may seem a surprising statement about a series of graphic novels exploring fetish subculture, but there’s a subtlety about Sunstone due to Šejić’s ability to convey matters visually. It’s exemplified by a discussion about nipple piercing, to which Lisa doesn’t contribute, but has a relevance due to her submissive nature. Everything that needs to be expressed is handled visually. A lot of the book also depends on precise expressions accompanying introspective narrative captions, and Šejić’s very adept at the appropriate expression.
Anne, a character introduced in volume two, has supplanted Lisa as the novice whose growing interest serves as the way into BDSM culture, and she’s used to dispel myths associated with exploration, mostly generated by online porn sites dealing in extremes. While discussion and explanation is central to the series, Šejić’s also well aware of what most male readers want to see, and there are pages and pages of beautiful women in fetish wear. With such a predominantly female cast is the sensitivity enough to push the audience beyond heterosexual males and women attracted to other women? Probably not very far, but that’s fair size audience for series taking a look at sex that’s adult in the best sense of the word.
A value for money hardcover version combines this book with the previous two, and the series continues in volume 4.