Review: SEX CRIMINALS #1

SEX CRIMINALS #1
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: September 25, 2013

sexcriminals1Sex is weird, y’all. As an activity, it’s nothing like what you see in R rated movies, or 95 percent of porn. As an idea, sex is simultaneously taboo and not taboo. Especially for women and girls. So, first and foremost, I give Sex Criminals high marks for being a positive look at female sexuality, without giggling like a ten-year-old. It’s not a lewd book at all. It’s titillating, sure, but it’s very sincere. You get a mystery and a money shot in the first two pages – that’s the book, in a nutshell. There’s humor, and there’s sadness, and there’s some pretty spectacular stick-figure drawings on a bathroom stall. Enjoyable from start to finish, Sex Criminals is probably the weirdest and sweetest book I’ve read in a long time.

Basic plot: a special girl named Suzie meets a special guy named Jon, they get together and they steal stuff. Now, spoilers if you aren’t aware of the core concept behind Sex Criminals: Suzie has the ability to stop time when she orgasms. She doesn’t know why. Same goes for Jon. Matt Fraction tells an uncomfortably familiar (for me) story about sexual self-discovery in Suzie’s early quest to find out what the hell is wrong with her. Her earnestness and awkwardness are really endearing, steering clear of the “manic pixie dream girl” trope. If anything, it’s Jon who irritates me a bit – he’s trying way too hard.

For all the lit-nerd jokes and wry humor, the story also has a lot of emotional weight. The visits to Suzie’s childhood are sad, but they also illustrate a lot about who she is as a protagonist. I will say she seems a bit precocious for a middle-schooler, but then I’ll be the first to admit I was a bit sheltered. I’m already attached to Suzie though, mostly because Fraction’s non-linear story timeline allowed me to see her at multiple points in her life. It’s not difficult to follow, but it does make you pay close attention when you read.

Sex Criminals also does a brilliant job of letting the art tell the story. Chip Zdarksy’s work is wonderful. I don’t even have anything to compare it to, which hurts because I need analogies to live. Little details in certain scenes take them from uncomfortable-ew to uncomfortable-funny, like the smiley face on a speculum (WHY) or repeated use of the name and image of someone named Sexual Gary. I don’t know who or what Sexual Gary is, but I feel like he might be some omnipresent silent judge like the optometrist’s billboard in The Great Gatsby. Or maybe it’s just a random inside joke. I’m giving Zdarksy and Fraction credit for added depth anyway.

Zdarsky’s best sequence, for me, is when Suzie first meets Jon. She’s floating just above the floor as she follows him around the room. And when they have their first conversation, the background slowly falls away around them over the course of a few panels. It’s just the perfect way to convey the tone of that moment, without having to beat you over the head with it. I’ve never been so transported by a scene that involved a joke about David Niven and necrophilia.

I cannot wait for the next issue. I want to know if Jon’s journey was at all like Suzie’s, and who knows their secret. I want less Thomas Pynchon jokes. If you dig character driven stories about adults who use their magical sex powers to rob banks, or just really well-written fiction that will make you smile and laugh, give your money to Sex Criminals!

The Verdict: 9.0/10

 

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One Comment;

  1. Xalazi said:

    I just finished reading this issue, and I have to agree. This was really special and really good. It reminded me a lot of Maggie and Hopey stories from Love and Rockets. The way that sex is treated and the way Suzie is written reminds me of a lot of Jamie Hernandez. Hell, even the art is like a colorful version of Jamie’s.
    If the first issue is any indication, this book is going to be getting a lot of awards and praise. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for everyone that’s cool. lol

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