Stjepan Sejic’s “Sunstone” returns with the next chapter in the blossoming relationship between Ally and Lisa. This time around Lisa and Ally gain new friends and a secret is revealed. This review will reference the BDSM lifestyle so it’s probably best to stamp a NSFW label on this.
Written by Stjepan Sejic
Illustrated Stjepan Sejic
STJEPAN SEJIC continues the critically-acclaimed SUNSTONE series. A classy, sexy, fun, and emotional look at two women and the alternative lifestyle they live.
“Sunstone” tells the story of Lisa and Ally; Ally is a “domme” who met Lisa, a “sub” online through a BDSM chatroom. BDSM, for those not familiar with it, is bondage, dominance and sadomasochism. It encompasses a wide range of sexual actions including restraint and role playing. The first volume explored their first weekend together as they made love and experimented with their fetishes. Even with all the fetishism, “Sunstone” Volume 1 was really about two people beginning to fall in love and how their shared interest created trust. That chapter ended with Lisa and Ally in a good place as they decided to continue their romance, which is where “Sunstone” Volume 2 picks up.
Sejic’s script begins with a great analogy for what the BDSM lifestyle is as Lisa explains a trust exercise that involves someone falling backwards with the hope that their partner will catch them. It requires letting go of all inhibitions and putting all your trust in your partner. We’re then taken to The Crimson, a BDSM nightclub where we are introduced to a few new characters by way of Alan. Chris is Alan’s partner in furniture making. He helps create the pieces that many of the characters use in their bedrooms but is for the most part clueless about the lifestyle but doesn’t hold back on making jokes about it. Chris’ sister Cassie was introduced to BDSM through Alan and now she and her husband Tom practice it. This leads us to Ally and Lisa who are getting ready to begin another weekend together. Lisa ends up being visited by her “friend” effectively putting and end to the two of them doing anything. After spending the first half of the book discussing Ally and Alan’s past, the entire cast gets together for coffee where they agree to go to The Crimson that night. As all this is being planned the name Marion keeps getting dropped. She’s a character we haven’t seen but what we know is that she was close to both Alan and Ally. Who she is to them and what happened to her makes up the second half of the book and I dare you not to tear up a little bit reading it.
It’s very easy to write off “Sunstone” because of it’s subject matter. The cover features a scantily clad woman in leather and lace with a rope around her. I get it, this is comics and we do (to a certain extent) judge books based on their cover. I almost did the same thing but when the first volume came out, “Death Vigil” was out and I had fallen in love with Sejic’s work. What began as something I wanted to skim through for the art became a read that I couldn’t forget. This happened because of the complex world and characters Sejic created. “Sunstone” Volume 2 really gets into the concept of trust and, for people who are involved in BDSM, this means a lot more than just telling someone your deep, dark secrets. This involves their bodies, knowing limits and hoping that the person they are role playing with will respect the rules and/or boundaries. BDSM in “Sunstone” is used for both eye candy and a metaphor for what happens in romantic relationships. Sometimes the metaphors can be a bit heavy but I think that works in the book’s favor because it is so easy to write off. People are uncomfortable when it comes to sex so throughout “Sunstone” Sejic can get wordy but it serves a purpose. He’s not trying to make you a BDSM addict but is actually explaining it and showing how normal it is. It’s a valid form of sexual expression and through these characters, you’ll understand it more.Continued below
“Sunstone” is the anti “Fifty Shades of Grey” because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t feature female leads willfully taking part in abuse. Lisa is a submissive in the context of BDSM role play but she’s doing that by choice. Her partner Ally respects her in every way and in a great contrast, Sejic has situated her as the lead of this whole story. She’s the narrator and she’s the one who gets Ally to open up about the situation with Marion. He’s known mostly for his artwork but he’s an extremely capable writer who can craft a cohesive story that emotionally resonates with readers while still making you laugh. He’s got a wicked sense of humor and he uses it in his writing. There are lots of jokes to be had and it could easily slide into something crude but Sejic looks for the laughs that come in weird situations. It’s all done very naturally.
“Sunstone” Volume 2, obviously, features gorgeous artwork. Sejic is great at doing a lot of different things but I don’t know if he’s doing anything right now as well as “Sunstone”. This is on a whole different level than “Death Vigil” or even his couple of issues “Rat Queens”. What sticks out so much immediately is the texturing of the clothing. Leather and latex aren’t easy things to draw because of the way they catch the light. He’s able to convey that light catching property without putting his characters in silly shiny clothes. The designs of the outfits are also really varied and actually sort of fashion forward. Sejic taps into some of the biggest fashion trends; specifically with Lisa’s one shoulder gown. They also all look comfortable which is probably the biggest accomplishment from a practical standpoint. The characters visibly can move around without doing anything that seems physically impossible despite wearing all that leather and latex. It’s evidence of research and an artist who cares about detail. Speaking of details, the way Sejic separates panels on some pages is very cool. He uses ropes instead of lines at certain points and it’s a nice little added detail that deserves some attention. Sejic does this whole book from writing to coloring on his own. It’s a huge amount of work and for him to add those extra things just blows my mind.
The make or break aspect of “Sunstone” Volume 2, artistically, is the way the women are drawn. Most of the sexual scenes happen between women in this chapter and even when Sejic does everything else right, this could sink the whole thing. I think Sejic’s rendering of these sexual moments is a nice blend of cheesecake and realism. Given that this a book that deals with BDSM, it would be easy to go off the deep end and tick a lot of people off. Sejic creates some pin up-esque moments but they aren’t gross or make you feel like the women aren’t in control. They very much are and you believe it when the characters say that BDSM is like performance art. Right now, at a time where sexy art is being talked about a lot, “Sunstone” is a great example of what it looks like when done right.
“Sunstone” Volume 2 is like Friends but with a lot more sex and it’s not going to be for everyone. I do think it deserves a chance to win you over because it is a lot more than sex. This is at its core a story about relationships ranging from friendship to romance.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – Beautiful, romantic and artistically stunning. “Sunstone” is controversial but worth every penny.