Book Review: Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick, Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky (2014)

May 21st, 2014 4:39 pm by Kelly Garbato

Witty, Subversive, Wickedly Funny – A New Favorite!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program.)

Time-stopping sex in public places. Revenge workplace masturbation. A kickass librarian with a can-do attitude, a love of learning, and a magical clitoris. A Robin Hood-style crime spree to save the books. Halloween candy as far as the eye can see. What more can you ask for in a comic book? (Vegan finger food at the fundraiser would have been nice, but. I guess there’s nothing saying it wasn’t vegan, right?)

When I spotted a giveaway for Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick on Goodreads, I figured it could go one of two ways: Either the series would turn out to be a smart and insightful look at human sexuality and all that it entails – or a weak and juvenile excuse to bring the pornification of comic books full circle. And, you know, ogle women’s disembodied parts. I decided to give it a try, because what did I have to lose except for an hour of my time?

I’m so glad that I did, because Sex Criminals? It be bangin’.

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Suzie isn’t like the other girls in school. For starters, her father – an accountant at BankCorp – was murdered by a disgruntled investor who lost his life savings in the stock market. That Halloween, she dressed up as “the little girl whose dad just died.” (“I practically made myself diabetic.”) Suzie arrives home from trick-or-treating only to find her mom drunk. Again. She beats a hasty retreat to the upstairs bathroom for a relaxing bath, where a fortuitously placed faucet causes her to accidentally discover the “Big O” (and I’m not talking about Overstock-dot-com).

And then…time stops. Literally. Suzie finds that her orgasms result in “The Quiet” – a brief period of time-freeze, during which she’s the only person left conscious in the world. Or so she thinks.

After a string of lovers (and many weird, mostly unanswered questions), Suzie arrives at the conclusion that she alone lives in The Quiet. That is, until she meets Jon – and they stop the world together. And so, faced with a foreclosed library and an abusive boss, the couple does what comes naturally: they fornicate like rabbits, freeze time, and rob banks. (But it’s for a good cause, so it’s okay!) Little do they know, a group of fellow time-stoppers called the Sex Police are hot on their trail – and desperate to keep their powers a secret from the rest of the (sexually average) world.

It may sound juvenile, but Sex Criminals is anything but. Fraction and Zdarsky use the outlandish premise to explore various aspects of human sexuality: The loneliness and alienation of adolescence. Taboos concerning masturbation. Pornography and sex work. The time-freezing and bank-robbing are just incidental; metaphors for the human condition.

Masturbation? Sex outside of marriage? Coveting they neighbor’s wife? BDSM? We’re all sex criminals, at some time, in someone else’s eyes.

Incidentally, Sex Criminals is quite progressive in other areas as well. For example, take the subplot of Suzie the struggling librarian. Jon manages to convince her that robbing BankCorp simply to give the money back to them in the form of the library’s mortgage is morally permissible, since the bank doesn’t need and won’t miss the money. Fraction and Zdarsky touch upon a number of important social issues – the corruption of our financial institutions, unnecessary foreclosures, library cuts, the accessibility of information – right next to panels which feature angry men brandishing giant purple dildos and Barton Fink knockoff porn.

I also loved the scene in which a young Suzie visits a (male) gynecologist to ask about sex: “DOCTOR WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU HAVE AN ORGASM I’M ASKING FOR A FRIEND” “Usually fall asleep, Suzanne. With your husband.”

Both the writing and artwork are stellar. Suzie’s voice is both relatable and highly entertaining. The art is colorful, with lots of vibrant pinks and purples and greens. The Quiet (“Cumworld” to Jon) looks like the love child of a lava lamp and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Groovy!)

There is some nudity – probably a lot, by parental standards – but it’s not nearly as gratuitous as you’d expect. The male body gets as much real estate as the female (as a matter of fact, I think Jon dominate the full frontal category), so there’s gender parity too. This is definitely an “adult” comic, but I hope that parents aren’t too quick to ban their kids from reading it – I suspect that teens could benefit from Suzie and Jon’s early experiences. Sex Criminals helps to normalize teen sexuality and show kinds that they’re not alone, freaky, or perverted for thinking about or even exploring sex.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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One Response to “Book Review: Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick, Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky (2014)”

  1. 2014 Real Book Challenge: May Roundup » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (2014); reviewed here […]

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