Sex can be quite the difficult subject to tackle when used in fiction because so many people view it differently. For some, it’s just something fun and enjoyable. For others, it’s a thing of love and passion. And others use it as a device for an ulterior motive (i.e. children, favors, etc.). It must be difficult to encompass all of these different views on it into a work of fiction lest the author risk alienating a whole group of people. So what Matt Fraction does here is choose a very left-field view on sex, and makes it the focal point of the story, dragging it to a point of humorous outlandishness that it’s hard to take seriously, but it ends up being a solid piece of work.
Sex Criminals #1, simply put, is one of the best comics I’ve read all year. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s unafraid to talk about what could possibly be conceived as a touchy subject for the comic medium. It’s very progressive in the way it talks about sex and in the way it portrays it. Not only that, it makes it seem funny too. The premise behind the book is that every time this girl has sex, it stops time. We don’t know exactly what she’ll use the time-stopping power for, but we have a good idea from the title (and the last pages). It’s a fun, enjoyable romp with unique, fully developed (for a first issue) characters. Fraction’s use of narration may seem like much on the page, but it’s actually very economical and sparse. It gets the point across in a humorous, non-generic way that lets us empathize with the character as we go through her seemingly difficult childhood towards a more sedentary lifestyle as an adult. It’s a strong character progression that doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to make us like the lead.
By all rights, this comic should not be as good as it is; the subject is not an easy one to write about without seeming ham-fisted, offensive, stupid, or all three. Yet Matt Fraction makes everything work. He’s a writer with a strong sense of humor and is able to make his characters relatable. He also has a nice sense for cartoonish yet believable plots. Combine that with gorgeous art by Chip Zdarsky, which evokes Bruce Timm, Michael Avon Oeming, and Javier Pulido in its aesthetic sensibilities, and you’ve got one damn near perfect book (The art is seriously amazing, I feel like I’m reading a Bruce Timm-drawn cartoon at times. This feels like it would be a perfect non-related companion piece to Mad Love). Sex Criminals #1 is probably the best Image book debut this year since East of West launched.
I don’t have much else to say because I can’t think of anything to criticize. The drawings are gorgeous, the panel layouts are very clever, the writing is funny and economical, and every little piece counts. Hell, even the back cover of the book is hilarious. This is going to be one of those books I can’t wait to read every month. Sex Criminals #1 is an excellent debut, and I urge anyone reading this to pick it up immediately.
(Note: not posting any pages from it for the review because I wouldn’t spoil something this good.)