Review: SEX CRIMINALS #3

SEX CRIMINALS #3
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: November 20, 2013

*Mild spoilers below*

sexcrim03_coverMatt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky continue to slowly but surely develop the story of John, Suzie and their shared ability to stop time when they have an orgasm in what is by far the strongest of the three issues.

Sex Criminals isn’t for everyone. I figured I should come right out and say it because when you have a comic that covers the topic of sex explicitly like this comic does, it is going to almost automatically be divisive. This is the type of comic where it doesn’t matter what kind of review is written, I know there will be just as many people who agree with than don’t. With that said, issue three has nothing that will change your minds either way. If you love the book you’ll fall even more in love and if it isn’t for you then it just isn’t going to be for you.

Fraction and Zdarsky use this issue to start diving into John’s sexual history while showing the blossoming of his relationship with Suzie. The issue starts off with a bang, as it quite possibly contains the greatest recap page in the history of comics. It doesn’t actually recap much of anything related to the previous two issues, but I dare you not to laugh at this story of evolution that contains phrases such as “jack shack” and discusses humans as being hairy dinosaurs. It’s ultimately a page that seems completely out of place and useless, but sets the tone for the entire issue.

The tone of the issue is all over the place, but in a way that is near perfect. Fraction strikes a great balance between the vulgarity of some of the sex scenes and jokes with the sweetness of a developing relationship and falling in love. The same balance applies to the in your face aspects of the book such as the main hook of time stopping when John or Suzie have orgasms balanced with the subtlety that you wouldn’t expect. A few scenes in particular that show off these balances are John’s weird story of losing his virginity and experimenting compared to his response to Suzie asking him to stay the night. On one hand you have weird awkwardness that comes with experimenting sexually, and then on the other you have one of the most romantic lines you will ever read in a comic. Then you have the panel where John masturbates at work. You have the not so subtle idea of John beating off in the bathroom, complete with the colors, and then the subtlety of the old man with the walker.

That brings us to the most divisive scene of the issue, the three pages of Suzie singing Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen. It surprisingly had nothing to do with sex, but was full of Matt Fraction himself speaking to the readers while providing some very meta humor that some may say went on a tad bit long or was a bit too self indulgent. The other aspect of this scene was that this was the moment where John fell in love with Suzie and while we were reading about Fraction’s legal troubles with trying to get the song approved we get to see, but not hear, John fall in love. It reminded me of the whole cliche of that moment you fall in love that everything goes silent and you are just focused on the new man or woman of your dreams. This was the ultimate example of contrasting tones, as it presented both falling love and self referential humor on the same pages. This shouldn’t have worked but somehow Fraction pulled it off beautifully, although some people seem to disagree with that statement.

This is where Sex Criminals may run into problems if Fraction and Zdarsky aren’t careful. The wonderful thing about the book as it is right now is this balance I keep talking about. In my opinion this issue was a perfect example of how Fraction can balance every emotion and topic I’ve discussed throughout this review. The moment the courtship is over and the sweetness stops, the more I fear that Fraction will give in to his indulgent side more and more. While we have only seen very little of the botched bank robbery that has been the framing device of every issue, readers can only hope that with as out of hand as everything may get as the mythology of “The Quiet” or “Cumworld” develops the creative team doesn’t lose their sense of love and sweetness that keeps the book grounded. Essentially, as long as the Fraction and Zdarsky can keep John and Suzie feeling like a genuine couple among all the craziness the book will be more than fine

Fraction may be the one writing the script, but this book wouldn’t be half the book it is without Chip Zdarsky’s wonderful art. There is something to be said about an artist that can draw convincing sex scenes, awkward sex scenes, and scenes of joy all in one issue. Ne does each convincingly. You can see the horror on John’s face as three certain words are said as he loses his virginity. You can feel the emotion when Suzie is waiting for a text, and you can see the joy that both John and Suzie wear on their faces when they are having fun with time stopped around them. The book is at it’s most beautiful with time stopped as the colors while in “The Quiet” are beautiful and capture the feeling of euphoria that comes after orgasm. Zdarsky’s style is once again a perfect match to the story as it is more humble and thus more believable than if one of the big time superhero artists had attempted to draw this book.

Overall, Sex Criminals #3 is a great comic book. It has a little bit of everything you’d expect and want from a book such as this, and balances it all wonderfully. In fact, I’d say the comic is a lot like sex in general; an act that at anytime can be any combination of awkward, vulgar, dirty, funny, sweet, caring, and full of love. Just like sex, it is a whole lot of fun.

The Verdict: 9.5/10

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