I’m not a big fan of “high concept” art, the kind of thing that can be pitched in a single, mind blowing sentence. In my experience, the quality of the execution rarely matches the quality of the pitch. There are exceptions, however. How about this for a one sentence pitch: “Two people meet who literally stop time when they have sex.” Kudos to whichever of Matt Fraction or Chip Zdarsky came up with that idea. More kudos for pulling executing that idea in a way that makes it funnier, and more thoughtful, then it probably has a right to be.
Sex Criminals is not a comic book about purveyors of kiddy porn, flashers, or the skeevy guys who lure kids into their vans with the promise of candy. It’s a love story, really, about two people who share a very uncommon trait – when they have an orgasm, time stops. Literally and completely. They’re able to walk around in this stuck time – in a wonderful encapsulation of their personalities Suzie refers to it as “The Quiet,” while Jon calls it “Cumworld” (and uses the time to take a shit in his boss’s potted plant). So they start exploring together when they hook up.
The first volume of Sex Criminals (One Weird Trick, collecting issues 1-5) is really funny, visually inventive, and unlike anything you’ve seen before. It ends with the arrival of a trio of self-appointed sex police who patrol The Quiet.* The second volume (issues 6-10, dubbed Two Worlds, One Cop) expands the cast of characters and dives into some heavier relationship and personal issues, all the while exploring just what The Quiet is and who the cops are.
I admire Fraction and Zdarsky for taking that route. Honestly, after the first volume their only other choice was to crank up the outrageousness and silliness of the whole thing, which probably would have spun out of control. Making the whole thing more “real” (although that’s probably not the right word to use) sets things up better for a long term run. It does mean, however, that the second volume isn’t quite as fun as the first, as the first blushing excitement of discovery is gone, for the reader as well as Jon and Suzie.
Nevertheless, they continue to tell their tale with style and wit, not to mention an astonishing frankness that you wouldn’t expect in a comic book. Yeah, it’s smutty and explicit, but it’s fun and thoughtful and deeper that people might otherwise expect. Unless you’re a complete prude, it’s worth delving into Sex Criminals. Step into The Quiet.
* What, you think just because Jon and I share a first name I’m going to sling “Cumworld” all over the Internet? My parents read this!