Sex Criminals #1 Review

If sex sells and crime pays I can only assume Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are gonna be rolling in revenue from their new Image series, Sex Criminals. This bold storytelling endeavour takes on a genre seldom attempted in comics - the sex comedy. Usually reserved for the silver screen, sex comedies thrive on the comedic chemistry between actors and awkward timings, things that you just can't capture on the static comic book page. That, however, doesn't stop Sex Criminals #1 from being a hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt addition to the genre.

Sex Criminals follows Suzie and John, two book loving twenty-something-year-olds who both share the ability to stop time when they have sex. So what do they choose to do with their bizarre ability? Rob banks of course! I'll be the first to admit that it's a somewhat precarious premise but where others would fail Fraction and Zdarsky make it work.

The first thing I noticed coming into this issue is how incredibly grounded in reality the series protagonist Suzie is. A few pages in and it becomes obvious that Fraction has been very deliberate in making sure she reads like a three dimensional, living, breathing person, and that's the real draw card of this book. Even more so than the humour, it was the incredibly strong characterisation that kept me interested. Apart from the time-stopping sex powers, Suzie and John are real everyday people that I found myself relating to. This is especially refreshing given that the characters in sex comedies are usually unflattering caricatures of however Hollywood perceives teenagers.

In comparison, Suzie is treated with such care by her creators. After reading this preliminary issue I was not at all surprised to read in an interview that she is based on a close friend of Chip's. All of the books jokes laugh with Suzie rather then at her, she's portrayed as a sexual being without being sexualised, and for a book called Sex Criminals there is next to no nudity.  

Sex Criminals #1 is a very classy execution of what easily could have degenerated into 22 pages of non stop dick jokes in the hands of anyone other than Matt Fraction.

That's not to downplay Zdarsky's role on art duties. The art and visual design of this book are all really impressive, particularly the page layouts and the way panels present next to each other. Deserving a special mention is the colorful swirling visual effect that appears when time stops. It so clearly and beautifully portrays the loneliness and serenity of being suspended in time. As for the actual art 'style' it leans towards the more cartoony side of the comic-art spectrum in a way that is reminiscent of Becky Cloonan's art. It's playful and funny when it wants to be but is able to portray raw emotion and detailed facial expressions when required.

Sex Criminals #1 makes for a standout addition to the already impressive catalog of comics from Image. If nothing else it will leave you wishing all sex comedies were this well written.

- Christof


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