SEX CRIMINALS (Vol. 1) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky — a Review

Don’t let the name prevent you from reading one of the strangest, funniest, and truest comics on the market. Yes, SEX CRIMINALS (Vol. 1) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is about sex. Yes, it contains nudity and some graphic material. But it also contains some of the most charming depictions of teenage awkwardness, puberty, sex, and love as well. There’s a reason Time magazine named SEX CRIMINALS the #1 comic in 2013.

SEX CRIMINALS isn’t so much the story of sex crimes–at least in the way you’re probably thinking–as it is the story of Suzie and Jon. Although I expect cops and robbers to play a bigger part in Volume 2, that’s not the case here. Instead, the story begins with Suzie’s family falling apart. After the death of her father, her mother shuts down emotionally, and Suzie is left to grow up alone. So when Suzie has questions about sex, there’s no one to turn to. Not her mom, not the dirty girls at school. No one. She’s just alone.

And boy does Suzie have questions. You see, when she orgasms, she stops time. Yeah, you read that right. Everyone freezes, but she is free to move about. But it makes her feel even more alone when she learns that this doesn’t happen to everyone. At least until she meets Jon. You see, Jon has the same ability. He has his own past and issues, but suddenly, they are not alone. They have hope. They fall in love. And that’s when the real trouble starts.

Suzie works for a library that is facing foreclosure. And Jon works for the big, bad bank. Suzie hates the idea of the library shutting down, and Jon hates his life at the bank, so what do you do? Why, have sex to freeze time so you can rob banks, of course. It’s just a shame that the cops have a special unit with the same powers too. And so the game of cat and mouse begins and Volume 1 ends.

Fraction’s writing is top-notch. It’s witty, funny, and very well constructed. On the surface, Suzie’s and Jon’s childhoods are very different (as is their approach to their powers). But as I kept reading, I saw how similar they really were–how much they needed one another. And I loved watching the two of them fall in love–often while trading embarrassing stories about their past.

Fraction also frequently breaks the fourth wall. On the one hand, this technique takes the edge off the more uncomfortable, sadder moments, and on the other hand, it made watching Suzie and Jon’s relationship grow even more wonderful (I won’t spoil it, but you’re going to love their date at a pool hall that plays Queen).

Zdarsky’s artwork is just as clever as Fraction’s writing. Real life is depicted in a simple, almost cartoony fashion. But life inside that post-orgasmic freeze is depicted as this beautiful, almost psychedelic way. And if you have a really sharp eye, during flashbacks, you’ll notice easter eggs that show Jon and Suzie’s childhood overlapped a bit.

Yes, I felt a little awkward reading this comic, and I found myself shielding the cover or pages from the prying eyes of others. But that’s just me and my issues. The truth is, the way Fraction and Zdarsky portray puberty, sex, and love is one of the most honest, heart-warming, and heartbreaking I’ve seen in a long time. The fact that on top of all that Fraction and Zdarsky have also created a comic that is laugh out loud funny means that SEX CRIMINALS deserves to be shared, not shielded.

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