SEX CRIMINALS VOL. 1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Colorists: Becka Kinzie & Christopher Sebela
Publisher: Image Comics
WARNING!!! EXPLICIT CONTENT!!
Orgasms….one of humanity’s greatest pleasures and weakness. We all experience them differently. They manifest in special ways for everyone and they mean something different to everyone who experiences them. But what if your experience was so unique that it was unlike ANYONE else in the world… or so you think.
Our story starts off with a pre-teen Suzie fresh in the thick of her grief stemming from father’s murder. As a prepubescent child you can imagine the heavy task it would be to navigate the world with loss and hormones conflating in your mind. As we progress through the first act, my favorite was our focus on the female aspect of discovering sex for the first time and “figuring it all out”. For me, the most touching aspect of the story was the isolation that Suzie feels in all avenues of her life thus far. Her mother is a depressed alcoholic who can’t contain her sorrow and Suzie is an only child, timid with very little friends or knowledge of the world around her. The only way she knows how to cope is through self-exploration and research about why the hell her orgasms stop time and how come no one knows WHAT she’s talking about. The latter of which I could not relate to but that feeling that you’re awkward and no one understands you and you don’t even know how your own body works is a sentiment that 12 year old me heavily identifies with.
So Here we are, with Suzie, traversing through the world with this secret and a failing library. She is trying to save her building and her books by throwing a party, when she meets Jon. He is the antithesis of everything Suzie could hope for in a man, learned and colorful, funny and confident without trying too hard. They hook up the same night they meet and Suzie discovers him in “The Quiet” her name for the place that she visits in her orgasms and from here we learn Jon’s story.
Jon does the weird trick too, but his story is a little more subversive. We’re introduced to a typical angsty bored middle school boy. Raised in a religious household he’s late to the party on exploring his body. Until one day he finds a playboy magazine in the woods like most late 80’s pre Internet teens did, and this opens him up to a world of possibilities. Once Jon discovers that his orgasms stop time for him and he can pretty much do whatever he wants, he starts to venture to a local adult toy shop called “Cumworld”. What follows is what you would expect from any teenage boy on a hormone rampage that has recently discovered that he has a freaking superpower. He smashes things and pulls stupid pranks on the shop workers, ntil he’s caught by getting a boner in the middle of one of his tirades.
The key to this volume for me was the flashbacks. Having enough backstory about our anti-heroes softens us to them and gives us a perspective on who they are and what’s shaped them. Not that it’s entirely difficult to understand why anyone would want to rob a major predatory financial institution. I’m just saying if I could stop time and rob banks, i totally would. Not even for any righteous self-fulfilling purpose either, I’d do it just because I could, just saying. Also the art and colors are some of my favorite. I love the way the Quiet presents itself, with the whisper of neon and how vibrant and eclectic it is without being overpowering.
Another outstanding piece to this story is the fact that the writers don’t shy away from the mental health aspect of the characters and how they either work through or sit with their respective problems. We learn that Jon suffers from Objective Defiance Disorder, which he was previously medicated for but as a result of that, it ended a loving relationship with his ex-fiance. I found this to be a brave choice on the writers part. We don’t often see men deal with mental health in constructive and open ways in society. Rarely are men written as vulnerable and insecure but Jon reeks of both of those things. We find out that he no longer takes his medication but he “copes” by taking a shit in his boss’s potted plant. Hilarious, yet counter productive to where his state of mind should be. He’s irrational and driven by a need to feel more important than he is and I love that they explore that here. It’s almost as if the writers made Jon the “manic Pixie dream girl in this story and not Suzie which is kind of awesome in my opinion. However I will say that it detracts from Suzie being the main protagonist which is what I was originally expecting.
Being that this is written by two men, I was pleasantly surprised at how connected they are to the women in the story and how somewhat accurate some of the scenarios are. I genuinely feel like one of the writers must be a woman because of how they have the female characters respond to some of the situations. The one female character I’m not super excited about is Suzie’s best friend Rachel. She felt empty to me, even though we get a good grip on her and Suzie’s friendship they tell us little about her. She and Suzie met as tweens in school, they went to college together, Rachel contracts HPV, and now she and Suzie are roommates together in their hometown. She kind of just feels...there, ya know? She drops a dime on Suzie and Jon to a lady they call Kegel Face because she sees Suzie acting weird and “planning” something with Jon. I’m sure that she's really just a plot device to drive the story forward but still, most girls would talk to their friends about the shady stuff they're doing and not just go straight to the police.
After Rachel dropped the dime on Suzie and Jon’s actions to this woman, she began surveilling the two of them and figures out their nefarious deeds, she warns them that the world of the “Sex Police” is real and large and that they don’t want to be on her bad side. Kegel Face, we discover, can also stop time with her orgasms and has mastered the art of achieving that through, you guessed it, Kegels. This places another layer in the story and sets us up for an arch to explore the many different ways that people achieve sexual gratification. Some of which we may not partake in or be privy to.
We end Volume One with Kegel Face catching Suzie and Jon in the middle of their latest and biggest robbery, namely the bank where Suie’s father worked at during his untimely passing and where Jon currently works. Kegel Face and her two mysterious cohorts attempt to thwart Jon and Suzie’s plans and mascarade around like some sort of cosmic orgasm authority. Spoiler Alert, they’re not. The only real thing about them is that they can also stop time with their orgasms and navigate the Quiet, oh and they carry real ass tasers and dildos for batons. I know, ridiculous but we’re dealing with Zdarsky here, everything he does is weird and magnificent. Our two protagonists narrowly escape and now are posed with a new set of challenges. Who are these creepy “time police” people and how did they find them? I would say that the first arch rounded itself out quite nicely. It wrapped up the current story while setting up the next without leaving too much baggage. My favorite part again was the amount of backstory that we gained on our characters in the first few issues. I’ve had this problem in the past of feeling detached from the character and caring more about story progression because I just don’t know anything about them. Here we are fully vested in who we are reading about and even Kegel face, as vague as she comes off, we get a glimpse into who she truly is when she is making dinner for her family whilst on a phone conversation trying to catch the bad guys.
So there you have it, Sex Ciminals Vol. 1. A nonstop romp of the honeymoon period of a young couple, conflated with bank robbing and some Queen shenanigans (you’ll have to read that part it’s pretty cool) oh yea and time stopping Orgasms. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have and give the next few volumes a try because the story gets DEEP, pun intended.