[This review is FOR MATURE READERS. Duh. Also some SPOILERS. Sexy spoilers.]
In my review of Sex Criminals #15, I joked that creators Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky must enjoy giving their audience “a real case of blue balls,” referring to how we must wait months and months between new issues. That was in April, it is now February, and here we have Sex Criminals #16.
However, this time the wait came with good reason — in those ten months, Fraction and Zdarsky worked diligently on Sex Criminals, prepping and completing an entire arc before release so as to keep everything running smoothly and on time. They also supply a several page primer at the start of this issue, recapping all the sordid and titillating events that led to this point. So don’t fret if you can’t remember exactly how Jon and Suze met or that Dr. Ana Kinkaid was formerly an adult film star under the nom-de-boink Jazmine St. Cocaine or that there’s a man who produces an honest-to-goodness cum fairy every time he… y’know. It’s all there in the primer (pronounced PRIM-er, if Fraction and Zdarsky are to be believed, and I’m not so sure they are).
Once up to speed, Sex Criminals #16 picks up not long after Dewey (the cum fairy guy) and Alix (his friend and fellow time-stopping, orgasm-haver) arrive at Jon and Suze’s apartment demanding to know why they’re fucking with Myrtle Spurge (AKA Kegelface). Alix rightly calls out Jon for having no clue who it is they’re messing with or why, all the while risking everything. But Jon being Jon — which means someone who likes to fuck with people he doesn’t like, diagnosed as oppositional defiant disorder — storms outs.
Which brings us to the real meat and potatoes of Sex Criminals #16 — Jon and Suze figuring out what they’re doing. Not just in that moment but in life. What began as a shared interest in fucking, stopping time, and then fucking with the world while time’s frozen has grown into a complicated and intense relationship; one steeped in sex and crime (heyyy, it’s like the title or something). But for things to continue they need to find out what they’re doing besides the sex crime stuff, so they make a list, a goal’s list. It’s a list of “stuff we want to do,” Suzie explains, to which Jon responds, “Like butt stuff?” because let us not forget the prize piece of art we’re in here. But yes, sure, like butt stuff, because butt stuff is life stuff and future stuff and goal stuff — and all important stuff for any serious couple to be figuring out.
That’s where we are with these two, at a point where they’re transitioning into a more mature phase of their relationship. It’s a reminder that even among all the sex and downright weirdness of this comic, Sex Criminals shows a deep understanding of relationships, exploring them on a fundamental level through its characters.
Artistically, this issue has some of Zdarsky’s best work on Sex Criminals, but it’s subtle and matches the ever so slightly more serious tone of Sex Criminals #16. His character work is spot on, with reactions that are perfect comical beats (especially in the early diner scene). But when the issue begins digging into Jon and Suze’s relationship, the detail vanishes from the backgrounds, forcing focus on to the two people grappling with such serious life questions. Not for too long, though, because once we switch away from that serious moment the detail returns — along with a few of those great background jokes. Later, while in “The Quiet”, there’s a fun layout design employed, almost map-like, tracing their sexual escapades throughout the apartment which is beautifully designed and colored. The artwork may not be the number one reason someone would recommend Sex Criminals, and there are certainly books that trade more heavily on their “beauty”, but at times Sex Criminals is really great looking — this issue is one of them.
This clocks me in at four reviews for Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, and if my adoration for this title isn’t already clear, I must not be doing this right. There are three volumes available in paperback which will get you all caught up, and if Fraction and Zdarsky are to be believed (and I’m sure they are), then for this arc, each month there’ll be a new Sex Criminals. Or buy it all digitally, I don’t really care. Just read it and enjoy. (Disclaimer: Adults Only. Seriously.)