A blunt and sincere story of survival.
Sometimes a synopsis is all it takes to convince me to read a book. When I learned that Image Comics’ graphic novel The Pervert is about a trans woman struggling to survive through sex work, I knew I had to read it. My first glance at the cover further confirmed my interest–artist Remy Boydell uses an anthropomorphic, arguably even furry, style to render the novel’s characters, and their painterly coloration is lovely. Michelle Perez is the writer, and together with Boydell they craft a story that’s unique among all the graphic novels I’ve read. Is The Pervert as good as it is distinctive?
As previously mentioned, this graphic novel’s artwork is attention-grabbing. The line-art is simple but charming, and there’s a nice variety to the types of dogs that the characters are modeled after. The coloration is lovely throughout as well, and contributes greatly to the novel’s tone. Moments of harsh personal reflection and emotional breakdown are especially visually affecting, as deep blue tones tinge scenes with a sense of almost arctic coldness. The hunting scenes that take place in the Michigan wilderness are particularly vivid, with striking shots of dead deer. This is a graphic novel that addresses life and death concerns expertly.
The Pervert also impresses writing-wise. There’s a sense of sincerity to the work that makes the characters easy to care about, and their hardships are poignantly conveyed. Perez does a great job establishing the characters’ voices through their dialogue. The protagonist’s relationship with their friend Thomas is particularly engaging, as two people who are broken in different ways come to know each other intimately while still remaining deeply apart. The novel’s ending is also fantastic, with narration that couldn’t be more polished. After all of the turmoil throughout the book, the protagonist’s final decisions make a lot of sense, even if they don’t make for a feel-good read.
This graphic novel doesn’t have very many cons. As excellent as its ending is, it does creep up somewhat suddenly, which might bother some readers. There are also segments of the protagonist’s life that could have been more impactful had they received more page-time. There aren’t many portions of The Pervert that feel too long; it’s only the sex scenes that drag on sometimes. I’m not complaining due to prudishness — the sex scenes just take up a relatively large amount of page-time without furthering the plot or fleshing out the characters’ mental lives. This isn’t the case for all of the sex in the book, and these scenes are never actually extremely long–I’m just grasping at straws because everything else about the novel is so effectively done.
The Pervert is a great read. In terms of original graphic novels, it’s likely to rank among the year’s best. Sincere character development, charming line-work, and evocative coloration combine to create a story that’s memorable on all fronts. There are some minor issues with the duration of certain scenes, but these moments are never terrible, just less less good than others. I would recommend The Pervert to just about anyone.