Walk into any comic book store and you’ll see the walls adorned with copies of the latest issue of “Batman,” “Superman” and “The Avengers.” And while comics are generally science fiction or fantasy, there’s more to the medium than just superheroes. No comic book in recent memory has used a sci-fi premise with as much humor as Image Comics’ latest series, “Sex Criminals,” written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky.
“Sex Criminals” has taken the comic book community by storm. Intended for mature readers, “Sex Criminals” is a coming-of-age comedy turned bank heist thriller. It’s universally acclaimed, and was nominated in 2014 for two Eisner awards- the comic industry’s equivalent of the Oscars- for best continuing series and best new series. “Sex Criminals” also topped the year’s best comics lists in Time magazine and USA Today. For anyone who’s picked up the recently released trade paperback “Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick,” compiling first five issues, it’s easy to understand the hype.
The main characters, Jon and Suzie, both have a secret: When they have sex, they freeze time. In this frozen world, they’re free to move around and interact with petrified versions of everything they know, until the magic wears off. While Suzie often uses this time to read, Jon plays pranks on his boss. By some random act of cosmic fate, Jon and Suzie meet at a party and by the end of the night, they wind up in bed together.
They both thought they were alone with the power until they found each other both unfrozen in the frozen world that Suzie calls “the quiet” and that Jon calls “cumworld.” Excited to stay with someone else while post coitus for once, the two plan to take the world by force. They start with the banks. In order to save Suzie’s beloved library from foreclosure, the two devise a plan to rob a bank to keep the library open. But when the Sex Police arrive, Jon and Suzie realize they’re a bit in over their heads.
The first volume of “Sex Criminals” captures all the key elements of an irreverent sex comedy. The crude humor, explicit language and lewd images all tie in to make it one hell of a ride, in more ways than one. The creators, Fraction and Zdarsky, are completely aware of how ridiculous their story is. Issue 3 features a four page spread of Suzie performing Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” For copyright reasons, however, they had to block out the lyrics. In place of them, Fraction describes their efforts to procure the rights to the song.
The initial appeal of “Sex Criminals” is the ridiculous premise that relies on the existence of mystical sex powers. But what makes the series great is the characters. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky accomplish in a few pages of “Sex Criminals” what most literature struggles to establish in a few hundred: humanity. The time-stopping sex isn’t so easy to relate to, but along with that is a story of sexual awakening within two people who fall in love after realizing they aren’t alone. It’s about two people who use each other to stick it to the man, to take what they want and feel they deserve. Jon and Suzie might be paranormal, but as a couple, they couldn’t feel more human.