This is the Sex Criminals we all knew and loved. The sex jokes are back, the relationships are back. It’s glorious. While we spent the lion’s share of the last issue with Jon, we spent about half of it with him in this issue after a solid reintroduction to Suzie and her roommate Rach. It’s a good centering again for the series, which after the first two issues, really works best when we get equal time from Jon’s and Suzie’s perspectives.
Last issue was a little bit oppressively dark, for some. I was a big fan for personal reasons, and a lot of people wrote in to the letter column this month with the same thoughts. This month’s issue is still a very dark affair, especially some of the psychological depths that it plumbs with Jon’s past, but it lets us get some of our laughs back. Suzie gets her best friend back, and we all feel like, even after the darkness of issue 6, everything might just work out okay.
I want to say that Chip Zdarsky has gotten better as the series has gone on, but I don’t think he has; I think he’s always been this good, and we’re just noticing because of the loving detail he gives to every sex dungeon filled with dildo-thrones that Fraction requires him to include. His ability to draw not only the main characters in their various hijinkery, but the main characters at different stages of their life looking like the age and weight they are at that time is astonishing. There are always artists who draw Aunt May like a twentysomething with grey hair, instead of an aging woman. Chip always manages to draw ninth-grade Jon like a thirteen-year-old and he doesn’t just look like the same character but shorter. It’s a subtle thing, but one that’s really nice to see.
Fraction’s work in this issue is equally stellar. While he likes to couch this book as just a sexy romp story, there’s bleak darkness to be found here. The urges of Jon as a child are something that we, as men, as a society, don’t talk about but we all probably have vague and queasy memory of. It’s a willingness to find the right story from Jon and Suzie’s past, tie them to what’s going on right now in their lives, and move the plot along.
This is a series where we’re told a lot of things each month, but not a lot necessarily happens. About a quarter of this issue is Jon reliving a shameful part of his past, which informs a shameful act in his current state. It’s not new information to Jon, but it’s presented as new information to the audience. While other books on the stands would be content to make this a heist book, where there’s a different charitable cause for Jon and Suzie to fund, Fraction and Zdarsky focus on what make Jon and Suzie themselves, and the universality of a specific experience. Some of Jon’s revelations in the sex dungeon this week may complicate that further, but that’s the point of drama, isn’t it? To complicate things?
If you’re not reading this series, there’s nothing I can tell you. For the foreseeable future, I will be shouting its praises from the mountaintop. If it starts to suck, you’ll be the first to know. Luckily, I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Chip Zdarsky Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 8/13/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital