Sex Criminals #4
Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky
Spoiler-free review of Sex Criminals #4
Image’s Sex Criminals was perhaps the most critically acclaimed debut of 2013. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky bring an irrepressible swagger to a book that blends a number of difficult genres (sexual coming-of-age, comedy, fantasy) with style. Four months on, and it has retained its charm and irreverence – but it hasn’t yet reached the high water mark set by the stellar first issue. Sex Criminals #4 is good, the best comic I read last week, but it continues to fall just shy of excellence.
Series artist Chip Zdarsky is, I think, a big star in the making. He hasn’t had much mainstream comics work in the U.S. to date, but I suspect he’ll have his pick of projects after this. Protagonists Suzie and Jon have a strong physical presence – they look a little more cartoonish than the ‘realism’-trending styles that dominate a lot of books these days, but they’re believable because of they feel real. Zdarsky gets to stretch a bit more in this issue, however, as he and Fraction really begin to build out the world. And if there’s one thing I haven’t given Zdarsky enough credit for, it’s his colors – the pristine whites of the Sex Police and their Headquarters, the loopy vibrancy of Cumworld/The Quiet. Sex Criminals is just a damn good-looking book.
All that said, Sex Criminals #4 IS probably the series’ weakest issue to date. Thus far, Sex Criminals has run almost exclusively on character, brief flash-forwards bookending each issue being the only hint that there was a larger world (and metaplot) out there. And while the small, sometimes joking hints Fraction plants to start building his world beyond the borders of Jon and Suzie’s bedrooms are intriguing, the series does lose a bit of momentum in the turnover. I totally understand why Fraction and Zdarsky made that particular decision, and I think it will help keep the series healthy and inventive in the long run… but that doesn’t make the transition easier.
Because, well, thus far… I don’t particularly care about the Sex Police. There’s potential there, but it’s mostly unrealized thus far (though Suzie’s backstory for Kegelface is probably my favorite laugh in the issue, and the scene that most suggests a way to push the Sex Police into character-driven territory). On the other hand, we learn even more about Suzie and how she’s used the power, in addition to more information about Suzie’s roommate Rach. If there’s a relationship in the book that needs more fleshing-out, it’s the one between Suzie and Rach, particularly given Rach’s actions in Sex Criminals #4. The characters in the series are the series’ biggest selling point, but thus far, only Suzie and Jon feel as fleshed out as I’d like.
Also? This is one book you don’t want to trade-wait on. Fraction and Zdarsky hold court on what is easily the best letters column in the industry, where readers share stories about their own ridiculous sexual experiences while Chip and Matt poke fun at them, each other, and the world. Sex Criminals isn’t the best book on the shelves, but it is almost certainly the most fun.
My Rating: 4 / 5