Group Review: Sex Criminals #1

If you haven’t heard of this series yet then… wow. How’d you manage that? Seriously this book has been making the hype rounds so we’re going to break it down as a team and let you know the dead. Each of the writers/reviews of Comic Bastards will give the issue a score of: Buy, Borrow or Pass along with a short reason for the score. First here’s a blurb from Image Comics about the book: Suzie's a normal girl with an extraordinary ability: when she has sex, she stops time. One night she meets John...  who has the same gift. And so they do what any other sex-having, time-stopping, couple would do: they rob banks. In the vein of THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN and BRIDESMAIDS, Image Comics invites you to come along with MATT FRACTION (Hawkeye, SATELLITE SAM) and CHIP ZDARSKY  (Prison Funnies, Monster Cops) for the series that puts the "comic" back in “comics” and the "sexy" back in “sex crimes.”

Steve: BUY

There’s a lot of sex in comics these days, but ironically in a book called Sex Criminals, it doesn’t feel superfluous or forced. This story about time-stopping orgasms and the angsty purveyors of them, is actually quite sweet, very sarcastic and, to make a pseudo-sexual quip, “one hell of a ride.” What helps this book most, I think, is the vehicle of its storytelling.

By page three, Fraction makes it obvious that this story, or rather its main female lead, is self-aware. While that makes some of its messages heavy-handed at points (I’m sure intentionally so, but that doesn’t make them feel any less forced), there were more moments that elicited solid snickers out of me. The dialogue between his two main characters when they meet is a standout: effortlessly light and organic, it’s easily the most amusing and touching part of this book, which as a whole is a personal tale of spunk through loneliness.

Altogether, Sex Criminals #1 is a fun but heartfelt “romp” with a great ending that introduces perfectly a premise I wasn’t immediately too excited about. The art may be a bit simple, but it’s also colorful, bright and deceptively daring. It also has great visual timing, which is essential in a book like this. With all this considered, one thing is for sure about this book: good things are coming.

Adam: PASS

Well, I guess the only thing I can really say about this book is the cliché that ‘sex sells.’  So this book will probably sell a ton of copies.  Other than that, I didn’t really find any depth or substance to this book.  I got the ‘sex’ part loud and clear but I’m still left wondering what the whole ‘criminal’ part entails.  The fact that they both were wielding guns at the end when they got out of the bathroom was interesting and will probably allude to that, but not an interesting enough cliffhanger where I’ll care to follow along.  I also felt like a perv reading it which I don’t necessarily aim for in reading comic books.  It’s a pass for me.


Kevin R: BUY

Matt Fraction has had a series of hits over the last year-- Hawkeye, Satellite Sam, and his Fantastic Four books immediately come to mind-- and here, we have his second independent book of the year, Sex Criminals. It’s a book that transcends its concept: two people who, once achieving orgasm, stop time, hook up and find out their mutual power. Once they find this out, they decide to do the obvious thing: rob banks. It’s a really, really fun book that, like I said, rises above the R-rated comedies that it is compared to in solicit text.

Complimenting Fraction’s pop-art writing is another in the string of awesome artists, Chip Zdarsky. Zdarsky brings Fraction’s prose to life in a way that is both clear and tasteful. A book about sex, you would assume, shouldn’t be as nice as this. Especially since it’s a comic book in 2013. God, I love this book so much, and I can’t wait to dive into the next issue.

Samantha: PASS

I can’t really say I didn’t like this book. But I didn’t love it either. What I enjoyed was the bright colors and that dirty sex coming alive through the artwork. I also like the idea of two people who orgasm together and then rob together. It makes for some light reading and inappropriate jokes.

What I don’t like about it includes the sex being too raunchy. I don’t need to see a middle schooler getting off to running water. I also think that while the story sounds interesting it is was poorly executed. I mean where can you go with organisms and robbing banks? I can’t think of any plot points for a whole comic series.

I was in between moods about the whole sex thing. At first, it seemed like the comic was making some sort of joke towards our obsession with sex and how it controls everything we do. Then I realized that I think this comic may just be buying into that very idea. Who knows, but for me a definite pass.

Dustin: BORROW

Well this book offered some surprises, but mostly fell in line with what I expected from it. I am not a fan of Matt Fraction. I know that's blasphemy to say as a comic fan, but it's true. I'm glad that others are and that his stories bring new people to comics. I'm glad that people were excited about this series and that it will likely sell out because that's good for comics. The thing is I find his writing to be to well researched. I don't doubt that the writer's he mentions in this issue are writer's he enjoys, but the way their presented comes across as very hipster. Fractions writing always lacks heart for me, especially his independent stuff. His Marvel stuff he manages to find it on occasions, but I've never read his creator-owned material and thought "damn this story feels genuine." Instead it feels like someone put in a lot of research and presented that research in the form of a fictional story.

Anytime you break the fourth wall it sucks. It rarely works and even then it's limited to comedy. It especially doesn't work in comics. It's quite possibly the boringest thing to read. That said I have no idea how else Fraction could have presented this tale. On one hand it's the only possible way, but on the other hand it severs any emotional connection you would develop with the characters. When Suzie's dad dies any empathy you'd feel for her and her mother is completely shot when older Suzie says, "the jokes are coming I promise." My thought after reading that line was, "I didn't know I was supposed to be laughing already." The thing about a comedy is that you don't tell people it's a comedy in the narrative. I've never watched a comedy and had the characters say, "hey guy... you laughing yet?" Let me tell you right now that it does not work in the context of a comic book either. There were moments in the comic that were okay, but basically anything involving sex was just cheesy. It was sexy and it wasn't even funny.

The art was good, but I would love to see it outside of this story. I do applaud the creators for not showing female nudity as it could have been an easy addition that would have moved issue. I'm serious about that last part... though I could have done without the dong scene as well. Overall I think you should read it for yourself and decide if you like it or not which is why I went with borrow. Personally I doubt I'll be back for issue two. Also the two movies that Image compares this book to is way off... like way off.

Score: 2 Buys, 2 Passes and a Borrow

Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Chip Zdarsky Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 9/25/13