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I have to admit, when I first heard the title of this comic—Sex Criminals—I thought it was going to be something completely different. When I found out it had nothing to do with sex crimes (in the traditional sense) not only was I relieved, but my interest was piqued. And I’ll be totally honest; Chip Zadarsky’s correspondences with Applebee’s on Facebook (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it) fueled that fire. Finally, when I heard the second issue was banned on iTunes I just couldn’t take it anymore. I picked up all three available issues and read them in a single sitting—after all, is there anything more enticing than a good old fashioned banned book? Thank you, iTunes.
In short, I love it. For those of you who may have had the same reservations that I initially had, I’ll say this: I have never read a more honest book about sex in my entire life, although I can’t say I’ve read many books that have sex as a central theme. I searched long and hard (no pun intended) for a single word to sum up this comic book’s take on the act that all things living and breathing participate in, but which everyone seems too afraid to acknowledge, and that word is honest. A good runner-up word is hilarious, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Suzie and Jon have a special gift. When they orgasm, time stands still—literally. Since they didn’t meet until later on in life, each had to come into sexual maturity totally alone, seeing as their sexual experiences are, well, unique. They had only themselves to turn to in their quests to understand just what was happening to them. Suzie had come to refer to this temporal limbo as “the quiet.” Jon, on the other hand, calls it “cumworld.” The first two issues cover the growth and development of Suzie and Jon respectively, from their first experiences with masturbation to the loss of their virginities. Strange? Not at all. Peter Parker’s first experience shooting webs from his wrists is relevant and important to Spiderman mythology, is it not? This is no different.
The humor is spot on. This is a comic about sexual promiscuity in a world of strange puritan values, and it laughs at these values. From the “previously” sections with hilarious page-by-page recaps of the past issues, to the witty dialogue and narrations, from the creative team inserting their voices directly into the narrative to explain the failed musical number they hoped to include, to small pieces of setting and props (in the porn shop, there’s a section called “Obamacore, ‘medical and socialist themed’” but you have to look for it). And I’ll stop there, because this hilarity is much better read and seen than explained by me.
Matt Fraction has done an amazing job at pacing this story, introducing and developing these characters, and wrapping it all in a setting that’s alive. Let us not forget that Suzie and Jon plan to use their powers for, well, crimes. Having won an Eisner for his work on The Invincible Iron Man, and with a résumé chock-full of some of Marvel and DC’s best characters, Fraction is well within his element. With Sex Criminals he has creative freedom in spades, and believe me, he’s using it.
Chip Zdarsky’s artwork, like the comic he’s drawing it for, is striking. I’m especially impressed by his depiction of “the quiet,” or “cumworld,” whichever you prefer. The hazy dreamlike states are incredibly cinematic. He knows when to place focus on the characters by removing their backdrop, and as I mentioned earlier, his impeccable sense of humor shows up in video store sections, posters in shop windows, and the various other Easter eggs that are embedded throughout—I actually went back through all three issues just to look for them.
The next issue comes out tomorrow, and I find myself looking forward to something that, initially, made me so skeptical. When I realized what I had been missing, I knew that the only way to make up for my tardiness was to review the first three issues and, hopefully, build anticipation for the next issue in so doing. So go ahead, go out and read Sex Criminals. Not only will you love it, but you can tell your friends that you read a banned book. If they’re anything like me, they will probably ask, “Wait, that’s still happening?”
For another take on Sex Criminals, check out Mike Miersen’s review of the first issue here.