Sex Criminals, written by the best duo in comics today, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, is a coming of age heist story, with lots of sex.
Suze is a woman who stops time when she has an orgasm. No explanation necessary, that’s just what happens. One day at a fundraising party to save her library, she meets Jon, whom she sleeps with, and discovers that he can do the same. What follows is an exhilarating tale of two young people in love who can stop time when they have sex, and of course they use their “ability” to rob banks and save Suze’s library from demolition at the hands of an evil corporation.
What may seem like a lighthearted and fun story about having sex and robbing banks is actually a deep look into very serious topics such as loneliness, depression, intimacy issues, sexuality and addiction. Without revealing too much, not everything is as fun as it may seem for Suze and Jon. There are real consequences of their ability and once the “honeymoon period” of their new relationships ends, it all becomes very real, and much like “normal people,” they have to deal with all the same relationship issues we go through, all while keeping their powers and plans a secret from those who may be suspicious of them.
Sex Criminals is hands down the funniest comic book out right now, and by a wide margin. Matt Fraction’s writing and dialogue are so witty and well-paced that you can’t help but read panels over and over. There are multiple times where you’d read one funny part and what follows is another, and another and another – he doesn’t give you time to even let the first joke settle in before hitting you with another awkward or witty moment. My favorite moments were learning about the “ass illuminati” (a secret sect responsible for convincing women of the world that it’s perfectly okay to wear revealing tights as pants), “kegel face” and “brimping” (Google it).
The best part about Sex Criminals, however, is the way it embraces sexuality and doesn’t run away from it. It’s clearly a commentary on sex being taboo in our society, and he completely throws that out the window and celebrates sexuality, particularly through the protagonist, Suze. When Suze was a young girl and discovered her “power,” she had no one to talk to. What follows is her coming of age, trying to learn about sex and why she’s different (if she’s different) from friends, magazines, movies and experimentation. Suze is confident in her sexuality as a young adult, and the moment she and Jon realize they can both stop time is one of the most touching and personal moments of the story.
Suze is not slut-shamed for being open about her sexuality, and is much more mature than Jon, who often still acts like a 14 year old boy. For example, Suze calls her stopped-time/place “The Quiet,” while Jon calls it “Cumworld,” named after a porn shop he used to rob as boy after discovering his time-stopping powers.
The way Chip Zdarsky portrays The Quiet/Cumworld is great – it’s very whimsical and fantastical, with lots of sparkles and streaks of light. It actually takes you out of the current moment and places you right in that frozen time. Overall the artwork is perfect for this book, it matches the tone and pacing well and the colors pop nice and bright, with steady lines and clear panel progression. It’s very easy to follow and keeps pace with the story. My favorite part about the artwork is the backgrounds – Chip manages to squeeze in so much that I have to go back and re-read the book a second time, but only looking at the backgrounds. When Jon is in Cumworld (the porn shop), the shelves are stocked with the most hilarious porn video names and objects. Almost every panel has interesting and hilarious things to look at.
Does this get Shortboxed?
Yes, Sex Criminals is not only one of the best books of the year, but it’s probably the funniest comic book I’ve ever read. It doesn’t shy away from sexuality, it embraces it. Everyone will relate to Suze and Jon in some way, and the entire journey is a fun romp through adulthood and self-discovery. This is a series that I will read again in the future, and one that I will recommend and gift to friends over and over. Anyone can, and should, read it.
Where to get it
Sex Criminals is a current ongoing series, and they are up to issue 10 as of this writing. Earlier issues are a bit difficult to track down because they’ve all sold out, but have gone to multiple printings. Later issues should be fairly easy to pick up at your LCS (local comic shop). Thankfully, the first arc (issues 1-5) are collected in a trade paperback that you can get on Amazon for less than $10. At that price point, it should be an impulse buy right this second. The second volume (collects issues 6-10) comes out March 2015.
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