Review: Sex Criminals

Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick  (Sex Criminals #1-5)Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny. Poignant. Beautiful. Oh, and it has sex in it.

It’s pretty rare that my fiance reads a book then says, “OMG, you HAVE to read this.” So it was a big deal. And I devoured it. This comic is gorgeous and probably deserves the “Comic of the Year” banner the New York Times gave it (though Saga, Volume 1 really can’t be forgotten).

This comic answers a question everyone has asked themselves at some point: “If I could freeze time everytime I had an orgasm, what would I do?”

…Of course everyone has asked that question.

For Suzie and Jon, the answers vary, but when they meet and discover they aren’t alone in this crazy ability, they decide–of course–to rob a bank.

In other words, Sex Criminals is a totally run-of-the-mill story.

Just kidding. It’s irreverent, but it’s also fairly deep. (Spoilers to follow, but really you should read this comic anyway and most of this stuff is introduced right away.)

When Suzie’s dad is killed in an act of random violence when she is 10, she struggles to cope. Her mom is barely holding herself together, and Suzie is left to process it all on her own. She finds solace in the quiet of the bathtub, where the running water can erase sound and leave her to just “be.” Except…the water under the tap feels [em]really good[/em]…and time stops.

Suzie struggles to figure out puberty and this ability (can everyone do this? Why don’t any of the books explain this!?) all alone, and uses what she calls “The Quiet” (this time-frozen thing) to work out her feelings. She grows into a smart girl who loves libraries, and is desperate to save her local library, even if it means buying up every book, one at a time.

That’s how she meets Jon. They have an instant connection; even reading about it feels like reliving the Best First Date Ever. And then, when they have sex… woah. They discover, finally, they aren’t alone in this ability. And then they hatch a plan.

Can I just stop for a minute and talk about the art? Man, this kind of book is why comics/graphic novels need to exist. You just couldn’t get the same effect in reading about how Suzie’s elementary classroom had a motivational poster that says “Reading is Sexy” and get the same kind of laugh I did when I noticed the derpy frog poster in the background of an otherwise tragic scene. There are visual clues like that everywhere, and it is just …amazing. And Suzie and Jon look like real people. Praise be to Chip Zdarksy for drawing a woman with kick-ass HUMAN proportions! It’s so refreshing.

And then there’s the colors! You’ll just have to see it to know what I mean, but The Quiet is really transcendental art. It’s gorgeous.

Sex Criminals is definitely a book for an adult…well… it might also be a book for a teenager who is still figuring out that whole sexuality thing, though the cover alone might freak out the parental types. While sex is important to the story, it is always tasteful and the art is never more than PG-13, though the brash and totally careless way the characters talk about sex is definitely going to be a turnoff for some readers (don’t worry; the sex acts described in the high school are all made up. I think.).

This really a science-fiction/Bonnie-and-Clyde/coming-of-age book and … it’s just great. True, author Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarksky may have come up with the concept as a way to tell as many sex jokes as possible, but I can’t blame them for that, and I can’t wait to read more. And see more.

(This book only got 4 stars because I think the pacing may be a little uneven. We’ll see. There was one section that, while still pretty to look at and which gave me a giggle, made me really glad we bought the volume rather than the individual comics. That story was…a tad thin.)

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