If you haven’t been reading Sex Criminals, you’ve been missing out. It’s easy to dismiss a comic about people who are able to freeze time when they orgasm as juvenile. And it could have so easily been a tedious superhero parody full of nob gags and immature giggling over sex. However, Matt Fraction (The Immortal Iron Fist, Hawkeye) and Chip Zdarsky (Howard the Duck, Jughead) have managed to create a story that deals with sex and sexuality in all of its aspects. Sex Criminals does not shy away from showing both the pure joy of sex as well as the dark emotional underbelly that comes with it, and often at the same time. There aren’t many books that manage to deal with miscarriage, mental health, sex work and asexuality in a sensitive, meaningful way, whilst the background of most images is scattered with innuendo and ridiculous jokes (Willem Dafoe sex masks and the porn version of Alf anyone?).
So far we have followed Jon and Suzie, two twenty-somethings who have the power to stop time when they orgasm. In the past 23 issues they have come across (no pun intended) others with the same ability. As with all comics with more than one arc, Sex Criminals has moved from the immediate issues between our main character to expanding the world to the other characters that have the same power. Some want to police this power, others want to fight against ‘The Sex Police’. I personally dread this move most of the time. When stories start dealing with good vs evil and different factions who believe different things to be good or evil, I usually lose interest (honestly, The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes trying to survive and build society: great! Rick Grimes finding yet another group of murderous villains: boring).
Luckily Sex Criminals manages to expand its universe without losing sight of the things that got us into this story in the first place. It still places its characters first. Yet the last few issues have focussed heavily on the secret dealings of the evil corporation and its villains, to set up a world where the ever expanding cast of Sex Criminals all have something to do.
In issue #24, Fraction and Zdarsky move the story back to its origin. We return to issue #1 and Suzie’s origin story; her father’s murder at his job at BankCorp by someone who lost everything in a stock market crash. In issue #24, Suzie is still living with her mom in the exact replica of their old house, she has dumped the rebound boyfriend and is using her dad’s old computer to look through his finances. The title of the issue refers to the helpful widget ‘clitty’ helping her find out about insider trading.
Jon is working for CumWorld, the site of his origin story, which is eerily similar to the Apple stores and worth lingering on the panels in the store for Zdarsky’s many stupid Apple/sex store crossover jokes. A cameo from Jon’s origin story, makes him realise that he is in a much better place mentally than he has been for a long time, but that maybe he is not in the right place in the rest of his life.
By taking both characters back to the start of where their stories began, an exciting seed is planted by Fraction that maybe perhaps the timings are right for Jon and Suzie to have adventures together again, be they as partners in sex, crime or neither. A monologue by Dewey, delivered to the shaken up bus driver, about the struggles of working undercover and what happens when you prefer your undercover persona, sets up the idea that maybe the charades of the Sex Police and having a heroes vs villains style story isn’t best suited to Sex Criminals after all.
I hope I am right, because although Kegelface and her cronies provide some fun tension, this comic works best when it delves into the emotional worlds of its lead characters.