Title: Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick
Author: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Year: 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars
I’m gonna defer to the Goodreads blurb to lay out the complicated, high-concept stuff we’ve got going on here:
Suzie’s just a regular gal with an irregular gift: when she has sex, she stops time. One day she meets Jon and it turns out he has the same ability. And sooner or later they get around to using their gifts to do what we’d ALL do: rob a couple banks. A bawdy and brazen sex comedy for comics begins here!
That is… quite a premise. Quite frankly, I’d been hearing people rave about Sex Criminals for ages, and the whole set-up sort of left me thinking “and it’s good because why?” I wasn’t put off by the sex, I like a dirty book as much as the next gal. I just wasn’t particularly interested in seeing a couple of post-orgasmic bank robbers in some sort of heist caper. As it turned out, I was right, nearly all of the elements related to the bank robbery (including the Sex Police, which sounds SOOOOO cool, but was sort of lame) left me feeling a bit meh. But the rest… THE REST!
The simple stuff first. The art is gorgeous. I’m too much of a comics novice to tell you why, but I loved it.
Sex jokes. Everywhere. It’s filthy and smutty, and there’s a literal box of dildos in one scene (don’t ask me why I find this so funny, it’s just… my brain. Also: when I stupidly googled “box of dildos sex criminals” I ended up with a bunch of articles about the ridiculous Oregon militia people, which is fabulous). Anyway. It’s great fun!
Characters! I really liked Suzie and Jon. They were funny and smart and twisted and flawed. They felt like people I’d be friends with; their world felt like a world I know. These issues spend a fair amount of time digging into their pasts, giving us their twisted little origin stories, and it provided a degree of depth and context that I appreciated.
Twisted superhero narratives! Seriously, as far as superpowers go, this one is awkward as hell. Until they find each other, the superpower primarily serves to separate them from other people, making sex a isolating experience. While I don’t read comics, I’ve seen enough comic book movies to be familiar with tropes about superpowers being as much of a burden as a curse, but this makes that so much more real. Until they meet, Jon and Suzie always experienced that post-orgasmic bliss alone. That would suck.
So all that stuff is great, but the real reason I liked this so much? It’s secretly a romantic comedy. I’ve seen a lot of reviews complain about this feeling like insta-love, but I don’t agree. Suzie and Jon meet at a party, where they are attracted to each other by shared tastes and humor. They fall into bed together, because they are young and attractive and that’s what you do in your 20s. They have great sex and learn they share one really major thing in common. They spend the next few days together, have a bunch more great sex, flirt and banter like crazy, and realize they really like each other. It felt fresh and real and charming, and the “that guy” moments kinda made me melt a little. Maybe it’s just that Valentine’s Day is getting to me, I don’t know. I found it delightful.
The book’s not perfect. For a sex comedy, it’s not terribly sex-positive (the treatment of Suzie’s friend Rachel and the way Suzie talks about Jon’s fantasy porn girl), and the whole plot about the bank foreclosing on the library was bananas (I’m not a practicing librarian here, but public libraries are, you know, the public entity (e.g. city, county, whatever) being fiscally insolvent is a whole different thing than someone’s home being foreclosed, or at least I would think… someone please correct me if I’m wrong). But whatever. I haven’t had this much fun reading something in ages.
This book satisfies the “Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years” task of the Read Harder Challenge.