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Comic review: Paying For It 

The Deal: Acclaimed cartoonist Chester Brown — who gained notoriety by creating near-classic works like Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography — releases his latest graphic novel, which is aptly subtitled A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John. (That's "john" as in "a guy who gives up cash for hookers.") And that pretty much says everything you need to know about this book.

The Good: I imagine that for your average prude, Paying For It may be a problematic read. I mean, it candidly and graphically deals with one man's real-life search for sex with prostitutes. So, if frank discussions and depictions of sex — especially commerce-based sex — freak you out, then this may be a very problematic read. For many folks, however, the life of a sex worker is somewhat exotic. That said, Brown's pay-for-booty tale is not porn — not at all. In fact, his adventures are presented in an almost clinical style (and told in a rigid eight-panel format). The book seems to be split in two types of episodes: Brown interacting with whores and Brown trying to convince his disapproving friends that he's not a scumbag. But, hands down, the scenes with Brown hanging out with prostitutes are the most compelling ones; in those passages (which are funny and sad), we're treated to a glimpse of what's going on in the heads of sex workers. And I guess that's a strange bit of irony: The best parts of the book are when the central character is relegated to fly-on-the-wall status.

The Bad: The weakest sections of Paying For It are when Brown, as I mentioned earlier, tries to make the case for "paying for it." I don't doubt that these conversations took place, but including so many of them makes it seem like he's trying to win over the reader. Page after page of someone seemingly making excuses gets a little boring after a while — and serves to slow down the movement of the story. We get it: You're paying for it. Go for it.

The Verdict: Hey, it's an incredibly engrossing read. Buy it — and leave the judgments at home.

Some reviewed materials provided by Heroes Aren't Hard to Find: www.heroesonline.com.

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