Review: Sex Criminals #1

Matt Fraction’s new indie sex-comedy gets off to a surprisingly mournful start in this sharp new comic from Image.

Sex Criminals 1 cover

Matt Fraction has been killing it lately.  We can all get behind that, right?  Fraction and Allred have turned FF into a spectacularly charming book, while Hawkeye has (deservedly) been  nominated for every award ever, including a Grammy. Probably. I don’t watch the Grammys.  But, like many creators these days, he’s struck back off into the wilds of creator owned books, with both the recent Satellite Sam and with his much-hyped newest debut, Sex Criminals.  How does it stack up?

Quite well, actually!  While Sex Criminals isn’t exactly what the marketing may lead you to expect, this is one of the rare instances where it’s vastly better.  While this is an exposition-heavy book, Fraction keeps things so intensely character-centric – and our lead, Suzie, is a fantastically well-realized character about 3 pages into the issue – that it feels natural and essential.  But the book isn’t solipsistic – already, two characters in particular stand out in different ways: Rachel, Suzie’s endearingly foul-mouthed roommate, and Suzie’s poor, tormented mother.  Each has a great deal of potential, and I sincerely hope that Fraction will continue to build-on and experiment with that supporting cast.

Chip Zdarsky and color-flatter Becka Kinzie nail the look of the book.  While Fraction’s script occasionally veers into the melancholy, Zdarsky and Kinzie maintain the book’s energy throughout, setting the tone even when that tone may appear on the surface to contradict what we’re reading.  Their Suzie is a real girl, with vibrancy and personality; all their characters are, really.  And the beauty of the Quiet is particularly mesmerizing, an otherworldly, relaxing blend of light and color that should feel chaotic and unreadable but actually comes off quite well.  I’m not particularly familiar with either artists work, but this is a major, eye-catching, crowd-pleasing debut.  Zdarsky and Kinzie are talents to look out for, this year’s Fiona Staples.

Sex Criminals is good – but it’s good in a different way than you probably expect.  Everything, from the art to the concept, screams ‘zany comedy’, but it’s more restrained than that.  Suzie is a real character, processing real grief through this fantastic situation.  She is – and you cannot imagine how happy I am to be able to say this – basically the Spider-Man of super-perverts, a character whose abilities are intimately linked to a devastating moment in her past and who is forced to process her world through the lens of that trauma.  I realize I’m not making this sound like a fun book, and it very much is that, but if that’s all it was, I’d be far less excited for next week.

This is a book that makes you care.  It’s also a book that features orgasm-triggered time control.  Sex Criminals contains multitudes.

– Cal Cleary

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