[This review, like the comic, is FOR MATURE READERS. Duh.]
Sex Criminals comes off like a weird comic. First off all, that name, plus its understandably bizarre premise, and then its graphic and overt depictions of sex and sex things. Through all of that, however, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have crafted an honest exploration of an adult relationship.
And not simply adult because of its borderline pornographic proclivities, but adult in the manner in which Suzie and Jon work on their issues and as a team of criminal “masterminds.” From the very first issue, Suzie has been an extremely relatable protagonist because of her openness in discussing her awkward sexual awakenings as a youth. That is something everyone – and I mean everyone whether they’ll admit to it or not – has dealt with; Suzie just has the added bonus of being able to freeze time whenever she orgasms. From Suzie we meet Jon, also a relatable fellow, but what’s even easier to identify with is how he and Suzie slowly get to know one another, discover each others’ strange quirks, and find ways to deal with any lingering weirdness.
In this week’s Sex Criminals #5 Suzie finds out Jon likes to shit in his dickhead of a boss’ potted plant while in “The Quiet.” He explains the behavior stems from a real disorder (Oppositional Defiant Disorder, real thing, “Bing it” as the comic hilariously suggests). And the fact this was something Jon had been but no longer is seeing a therapist/being medicated for, Suzie is understandably concerned. Like adults, they hash it out and Jon’s honest with her. The issue isn’t entirely resolved come the book’s end – there are more pressing matters at hand – but their discussion is a proactive one and a step in the right direction.
As a team the two work well in tandem, within the bedroom and without. Neither is necessarily in more control than the other, even though Suzie is arguably the main character and Jon is, well, the man. Besides, it’s not every day you find a man willing to dress in half Star Trek, half Spider-Man fetish gear, or a girl who discovers you defecate daily in your boss’ office and doesn’t immediately dump you.
Matching Fractions’ wonderful development of these characters are Zdarsky’s designs. With her Bettie Page haircut and his kind of bulbous nose, Suzie and Jon are ordinary looking and that only heightens how typical their story feels. Again, except for that whole freezing time when orgasming thing and the decision to use that ability to rob a bank.
But this isn’t meant to imply the artwork is ordinary, as it’s very much the opposite. The panels are filled with amusing details, and often it’ll be the slightest of changes from panel to panel that elicit the biggest laughs. Still, even five issues in the mesmerizing swirl of ethereal colors used to represent “The Quiet” is beautiful, and does visibly impact the mood of scenes that take place within it. The ways in which Sex Criminals visually communicates information has always been clever, but in particular this issue has great gags with Jon’s flashback to taking shits on his teacher’s desk and Suzie scrolling through her phone to call Jon, now listed as “Poopin’ Jonny.”
(Now that I’m thinking about it, Sex Criminals #5 has lot to do with going number two, which might completely undermine my “adult relationship” theory.)
Besides being an exceptionally fun romp where Suzie and Jon manage to escape the Sex Police – thanks to Suzie’s crafty and dirty quick thinking – and embark on a new mission of discovering just what “The Quiet” is and who are those monitoring it, Sex Criminals #5 has one of the best letter sections–ever. Typically, a letter section can be forgivably skipped over if you’re not super invested in the series, but not this one. It reads like a “Letters to Penthouse” column if all the letters were less about ravings of recent conquests and more about sharing past sexual shame for other’s amusement.
Bottom line, Sex Criminals has been a debaucherous and delightful series all mature adults should be reading. Seriously, this book is not for kids. Unless they find a discarded copy left out in the woods, in which case, it’s fair game.