Genuinely funny, heartfelt, smart, and entertaining. Also, SPOILER ALERT: there’s a glowing penis at the end of this book.
As a freshman in college I was caught in the bathroom videotaping my roommate peeing into my neighbor’s mouthwash. It was exactly what it looked like but it was for a good reason. The guy was a jerk, and he needed to be taught a lesson, but start a story with the sentence I started this paragraph with and you get some dirty looks. After my roommate and I took the time to explain the situation, though, people started to get the picture. After they spent five minutes with our neighbor, they completely understood. The first issue of Sex Criminals is the equivalent of spending five minutes with our neighbor.
By that I mean that the premise of the story—a couple of bibliophiles use the power of sex time-freezing to rob banks in order to save books and libraries—understandably raises a few eyebrows, but put this issue in a reader’s hands and they will soon see that the story is not only grounded and personal, but heartwarming and real. (Well, maybe not real, because let’s face it, it’s a story about time orgasms and bank robbing, but the characters are so well-crafted you’d think they were friends of yours.)
Looking at the title, one might expect a lot of sex jokes and graphic imagery, and while there are some of both, the book is markedly more layered than that. At the start Fraction introduces a mistrust and dislike of finance, and lightly peppers this sentiment throughout the book. The main character’s tone also hints at the emptiness of a culture that doesn’t read.
Speaking of the main character, Suzie is so incredibly interesting. In this issue we get a sweeping overview of her entire life, focusing on the most captivating parts. Fraction and Zdarsky skip backwards and forward through time throughout the issue to give us a complete picture of who she is. Suzie’s young self and her present-day adult self are quite different, but both are real and dynamic. As I was reading I felt like I was reading a raunchier, sadder version of the Amelia Pond origin story.
The thing I was most shocked about in this book was Zdarsky’s art style. Part Love and Rockets, part grown-up, noir Scott Pilgrim, I have to say that this is not what I was expecting. The art style was almost child-like, which helped give the character a level of innocence and levity, despite the subject matter.
In closing, I just wanted to say that I really hope this series takes off and I get to do a top ten list of the greatest things about Sex Criminals (I know what that sounds like). This issue itself has so many laugh out loud moments that you’ll want to tell your friends about (“swaffling” and “E.T. the Sex Move” top the list for me). The only thing more fun than this book is imagining how Fraction came up with the premise.
Matt Fraction (W), Chip Zdarsky (A) • Image Comics, $3.50, September 25, 2013.