On Equal Footing: “Sex Criminals #6”

[8 July 2014]

By Steven Michael Scott

Comics have come a long way from the days they were perceived as being “kiddie stuff.” It’s becoming increasingly harder to find comics that are appropriate for the littl’uns as today superheroes are certainly more geared towards adults. Part of it is the violent imagery and the other is the over sexualized depictions of comic characters, specifically those of the female variety.

This isn’t an entirely new trend. It was the late 80’s when DC Comics rolled out a marketing initiative of sorts where they slapped on their covers in big letters “DC Comics Aren’t Just For Kids!” in a seemingly desperate bid to try and reel in an older audience. That or editorial just wanted to convince themselves they were working on serious stuff for their age group. However, it’s doubtful any of them saw Sex Criminals coming upon proclaiming this.

Sex Criminals fits into a category all its own. Is it a book about sex? It is certainly dirty, but it doesn’t exploit its characters. It’s got nudity, but it’s on equal footing. This may be the most balanced book I’ve ever read where it’s clearly for everyone (of a certain maturity that is) who loves sci-fi comics and can appreciate a good sex joke, which there are plenty to be found here. Sex Criminals is very self-aware and has a great sense of humor about itself, never asking us to take it too seriously, yet we can’t help but get ourselves invested in the plot.

For those unfamiliar with the premise, it’s basically a couple who discover that they have the ability to stop time when they orgasm and they decide to abuse this talent to rob banks to help save a library. Although it may sound like a very thin plot worthy of a porno, it’s what the creators do with this simple concept that makes it work. This issue marks the beginning of the second arc and is a real game changer. The honeymoon is over. Not only for the couple but for Cu- er, The Quiet. Turns out our couple aren’t the only ones with hidden talents and the place where they once felt safe and alone has now been invaded by the Sex Police. Having attracted the unwanted attention, the only choices they have left are either to run or fight back. It’s about to get kicked up a notch.

I feel like through Sex Criminals I’ve gotten to know the creators Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I can’t remember feeling that since I read Bendis’ Fortune and Glory. Fraction and Zdarsky are Sex Criminals. That’s not to say that they have sex and commit crimes but they are the book, in the same way that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are South Park. If those guys were to exit the show the show could not go on without them, or if it did it would not be the same show. That’s what Fraction and Zdarsky have created here, their own little world and we’ve been invited into it, as twisted as it is. These guys are creating at the height of their talents and not holding back nor would we want them to. This is what true creative freedom is all about. Image Comics should be applauded for releasing a book such as this and letting their creators go wild because this is exactly what fans crave. Unfiltered artistic expression. 

Sex Criminals could very easily have been a gimmick with all flash no substance but what keeps us coming back is it that there is more to these characters than what was previously laid out on the table. They are as complicated as living breathing people and we’ve only begun to unravel what makes them tick. What can I say except I love these characters. The last time I read a comic where I became attached to the characters this quickly was probably Saga, featuring my other favorite power couple in comics. In many ways Jon and Suzie are just like any other couple. They have their own issues, own insecurities and are just as confused as the rest of us and that’s what makes them relatable. They are flawed and written so realistically that you feel like you know them almost immediately. The intimate nature of the story helps to accelerate this as we see them in their most private moments, reading their thoughts along the way.

It’s really quite magical the way Fraction is able to tell his story through these characters and make them feel like an extension of us. This is a prime example of what creator owned books have over mainstream ones with characters that have pre-established personalities. In this instance, creators can really infuse themselves into these characters and make them feel genuine, giving them honest personality traits that we don’t think of when we picture superheroes like Superman that are often more difficult to relate to.

Sex Criminals is where comics meets Playboy. In fact the letters column very much resembles what you’d expect to find in the letters column of a Playboy, filled with readers’ accounts of their own sexual exploits and funny sex tips from the creators. It is worth the price of the comic alone (and takes just about as long to read as the story) with hilarious anecdotes from fans and spot on responses from Fraction and Zdarsky. From the content to their rapport with the fans, you can tell these guys are having a blast on this book. The porn spoof titles alone are evidence of this. They love their fans and they love taking us on this journey with them.

Ask yourself this: Do you like your comics with a sci-fi twist, lovable characters, laugh-out-loud absurdity and a healthy dose of sexual debauchery? Then ask your local comic shop retailer if Sex Criminals may be right for you.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/183443-on-equal-footing-sex-criminals-6/