This is the continuing story of Suzie and Jon.
As many people do, Suzie and Jon found each other at a party, in this case, a fundraiser for the financially troubled library of which Suzie is an employee. They immediately hit it off and enjoy the first of many sexual encounters. However, their coupling is nothing like those enjoyed by “normal” people. When Jon and Suzie experienced their sexual awakenings, they discovered that their orgasms have the ability to stop time. Sharing this ability together grants Suzie and Jon the ability to experience a sense of freedom that can only be experienced by those who can freeze the world.
In the best-selling first volume of Sex Criminals, the couple’s sexy temporal gift creates an opportunity for Suzie. In an effort to save her library from the local bank, where Jon works, the two hatch a scheme to commit robbery. Committing the crime while under a glowing, enchanted post-coital spell, the heist is abruptly called off by the arrival of the Sex Police, a quasi-superhero group that wants to catalog the locations of people like Jon and Suzie for their own mysterious purposes. The pair escape from the clutches of the Sex Police, but are left shaken by the knowledge that not only are there other people that share their power, but that the Sex Police is apparently rounding them up.
Where the first volume was a rollicking good time of sex and time manipulation, the second volume is a bit more somber, as the consequences of Jon and Suzie’s antics come home to roost. The members of the Sex Police infiltrate their lives, disrupting Jon’s therapy sessions and tearing down Suzie’s library, but their relationship suffers a strain as they withhold sex from each other in order to remain undetected. Without sex to keep them occupied, both characters struggle with their own personality issues and quirks, though no more so than Jon, who undergoes a personal and psychological crisis because of his anxiety, ADHD, and obsessive compulsive tendencies, each turning poor Jon into an emotional, lustless shell of a man. The pair come together and drift apart several times. Jon, emboldened by his anger and craving for revenge against the Sex Police, breaks into one of their homes and finds, hidden away in a dark pleasure den, a file cabinet full of notes and dossiers on an all the men and women who can stop time. They seek out a former porn star (once an object of Jon’s adolescent obsession) who has become a theoretical physicist in order to better understand her own powers.
Sex Criminals is my new favorite comic book series. Nudity and sexual content is in heavy supply, but what makes the work so compelling is the incredible writing and wonderfully realized cast of characters. I’ve read my fair share of comics and manga where the characters don’t speak normally. Syntax, eloquence, and speech patterns are erratic, if not out of control altogether, making it difficult to relate and form connections with the characters. Matt Fraction makes writing dialogue seem incredibly easy. The conversational tone used by Jon and Suzie, even when they break the fourth wall, comes off as completely natural and breathes life into these drawn, inanimate people. Hearing their dialogue in my head, their words and conversations are those real people would use today. It doesn’t pander or dumb down its dialogue to a specific audience. It’s snappy, sexy, fun, and resoundingly hilarious. That’s the other reason why I enjoy the work so much: it’s incredibly funny. Laughs are evenly split between dialog and sight gags, like Jazmine St. Cocaine’s collection of porn parodies, including the Shrek parody that exists in the world of Sex Criminals. Some of the situations the characters find themselves in are absurd enough to make Chuck Palahniuk smile, such as Suzie’s trip to the gynecologist that ends with the doctor bringing in med students to examine her “perfect” cervix.
The artwork of Sex Criminals is just as rich and expressive as the dialogue. Chip Zdarsky stages and directs the characters with life-like expressions. He routinely mixes up the page panels in order to set up a joke or draw out a particular conversation. Sex Criminals isn’t as brash and sexually abrasive as one might think, based on the name. Fraction and Zdarsky do not shy away from nudity and sex, but the sexual content is in service to the story. The artwork is never gratuitous, nor extremely explicit. If the characters were one dimensional and the script poor, I wouldn’t see myself sticking around much longer. But Sex Criminals does a lot of things right, and as a result, it is completely irresistible.
Sex Criminals, vol. 2: Two Worlds, One Cop
by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
Publisher Age Rating: 17+