Suzie’s sexual awakening is awkward, confusing, and embarrassing. She doesn’t understand what orgasms are or why time stops when she has one. Literally, time stops. As an adult, she meets Jon, who has the same ability, and they devise a plan to rob a couple of banks to save Suzie’s library. Sex Criminals is a hilariously adorable comic about sex that doesn’t feel exploitative in it’s depiction of women. There is plenty of nudity and bawdy humor, so adults-only, please.
At the opening, Suzie breaks the fourth wall as a self-aware narrator, explaining how her dad was murdered when she was a kid. “I swear the sex and the jokes are coming. Hang on.” Her mom distances herself from Suzie with grief and alcohol, and Suzie’s left to mourn her father and cope with puberty on her own. She becomes aware of her ability to stop time immediately after her first orgasm, but because it’s all so new and scary, she doesn’t recognize her gift as a superpower. As a lost tween, Suzie searches for information about sex from the public school system, a gynecologist, her mom, and the “dirty girls” at school. When “dirty girl” and new friend Rachel explains sex for Suzie by drawing positions on the bathroom stall, it’s easy to remember just how strange and complicated sexuality is as a teenager, and all the bad information we received. Be prepared to laugh out loud here.
These characters are believable, and their history and motivations resonate. Even their flirty workday text messages feel real. The only downside of having such accessible characters is a tendency towards the generic. Jon’s sexual backstory isn’t any less embarrassing. When he discovers his ability to stop time, he raids a local sex shop, shoplifting material at his convenience. Historically, comics have used superpowers as a stand-in for adolescence, but instead of fighting crime with his power, Jon just looks for more porn. “Cue the Benny Hill music.”
In addition to breaking the fourth wall, another stylistic choice I love is a scene in which Suzie hears a song on the jukebox at a bar while playing pool with Jon, and, using her pool cue, performs a complete version of “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. But instead of captioning the lyrics, the creators place “sticky notes” over the speech bubbles, explaining how they were unable to obtain the legal rights to the lyrics. The song goes on a little too long, and the notes digress into absurdity. I’m still not sure if Fraction meant this scene to be a post-modern digression or if he really wanted to obtain the lyrical rights, but either way, I find it clever and charming and only something that can happen in comics. On that note, the effect of stopping time with orgasms works very well in the comic medium, especially the distinctly colored panes that distinguish time-stoppage from regular time. Kudos to Zdarsky on this surreal but not-too-psychedelic effect.
Overall, a really fun playful story with a lot of sex. Highly recommended for comic book fans, women and men equally. For adults only!