Publisher – Image Comics
Writer – Matt Fraction
Artist – Chip Zdarsky
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. For most of us, discovering that we have super-powers would inevitably lead to two questions; “How can I use this power to get laid?” and “How can I use this power to get rich?”. For our Sex Criminals Suzie and Jon, who both discovered that each of them can stop time when they orgasm, only the latter question requires a solution. A question they chose to answer with “robbing banks”, and have found to have consequences. Sex Criminals has personally been one of my favourite works in comic books lately, and with this latest instalment it is obvious that Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are just getting started with their ideas for the series.
Jon and Suzie are still lying low after issue 5’s run in with the Sex Police during their biggest heist, and we return to the dull rut Jon and Suzie have been in as they look over their shoulders in fear for Kegelface’s return. Following Jon’s account of how his life has slowed down in #6, we open with Suzie’s tale this time about how disconnected and frazzled she has been over events, mirroring Jon’s in that usual superb character building style the comic is making its name known for. However the exploration into Suzie’s depression doesn’t last all issue as she reconnects with her best friend Rach, eventually telling her about the magical power she and Jon share. This issue also concludes Jon’s threat to take the fighting to the Sex Police, tired of being on the receiving end and taking the fight to Kegelface and her secret organisation thanks to the address listing in his hand. We also learn a little more of Jon’s history through school as he explores the limits of his powers.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Fraction has not lost a beat in his character development in this latest issue of Sex Criminals. Rarely does a single thing any character from the leads to the supports do that is completely meaningless to their personality. Conversations between characters or monologues to the reader are always stuffed with total sincerity and believability that always leaves the character suitably likeable. It is so easy to buy Suzie’s adoration of her friend Rach from how lovingly they discuss events in their reunion, from narrative monologue to explaining her powers. In the later pages, Jon’s invasion of Kegelface’s home is matched by an inner monologue mixed with the right proportions of fear, anger, resentment and surprise. Fraction still falls on the crutch of calling on a character’s history for the best parts of its character exploration, which while we’re still relatively fresh in the door of this series always has some great secrets of Suzie and Jon’s emotional past to clue the reader in on. It’s these kinds of elements which makes Fraction’s characters so easy to slide off the page and into the reader’s imagination and heart.
Of course, this cacophony of emotion and humour would be lost without Zdarsky’s art to tame it to the page. Zdarsky has this great way of drawing characters at their best and at their worst, making each person more than just a single look or character trait. Suzie’s depression and appreciation becomes believable when each emotional state comes across in her face. Where I feel Zdarsky’s work shines its brightest is during moments in the orgasm-induced timeless world dubbed “The Quiet” by Suzie and “Cumworld” by Jon (two names which perfectly sum up each character’s sensibility with amusing precision). The idea of intense sexual pleasure comes off the page in each panel’s soft pink and blue haze-like colour treatment, with clashing lines and lens flares highlighting the light-headedness of Suzie and Jon in their ecstasy-state. This becomes used perfectly when Jon explores the house of Kegelface, with the seventh issue’s large panel discovery so perfectly framed through the unreal haze of pleasure upon its reveal.
Sex Criminals is right up there with one of Image’s best ongoing comic book series of the moment, especially for its use of humour and romance. The story and art are exemplary in their use of character development and colour design. With this new story arc under construction in this issue there is still time for newcomers to go back and get up to speed with the first 6 issues before settling down and getting on board with where the story will be heading going forward.
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