In “Sex Criminals” #2, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy focus on Jon, the other half of the time-stopping couple. The comic is prefaced by a tongue-in-cheek, long-winded recap page, and its tone is characteristic of both the offbeat humor and the leisurely pace of the story. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it isn’t in any hurry.
Just like the debut issue, “Sex Criminals” #2 is told in flashback. Fraction keeps Suzie as the point of view character, but the story revolves around Jon and takes us through his own childhood discovery of his post-orgasm ability to stop time.
Although Suzie and Jon are the titular sex criminals, currently they are still the heroes of the story, and as recap page pointed out, the people after them must be “weird” because they speak in white-on-black text. Also, the mysterious woman calls Suzie and Jon “children,” and her patronizing manner is not meant to endear her to the reader. The faces of these antagonists are revealed, but their purpose, abilities and motivations are still unknown by the end of “Sex Criminals” #2.
Unlike “Sex Criminals” #1, in which Suzie spoke to the reader in a confessional, open manner, “Sex Criminals” #2 stops short of giving the reader insight into who Jon is. He grows from a typical pimply teenager into a confident and charming man. “Sex Criminals” #2 seems to point towards Jon being the one who wants to rob banks, and Suzie is merely a natural accomplice since she has the same power. Jon’s teenage masturbation shenanigans are relatable, but his repeated trips to the video porn shop are also more over-the-top than Suzie’s story of self-discovery, and the filter of Suzie’s text box voiceover narration also keeps the reader at more of a distance from him. The story is more evasive this time, and thus, character development is slower.
Fraction’s fondness for word play comes out in jokes, with puns like “Ass Jeeves” as a pornographic version of “Ask Jeeves,” but in the flow of the narrative. Like a poet or lyricist or rapper, he pays unusual attention to the weight of syllables. The first page has a “Jon-Suzie-Jon-Suzie” sequence, reestablishing the main characters as a unit, and second page repeats “okay” four times, with a different speakers and emphasis each time. These beats of language also work in tandem with Zdarksy panel layout as the words drop onto the page.
Like his work in “Hawkeye” and other comics, Fraction uses repetition and a tennis-like rapid back-and-forth in his characters’ conversations to create rhythm and sonic progression. “Sex Criminals” #2 comes off as almost monologue-like its focus on Jon’s recollection of childhood, but the effect is softened by Suzie’s interjections and the emotional reinforcement of her thoughts.
Zdarksy’s art is a good match for Fraction’s humor, with details like background jokes and a “Family Circus”-like layout for a scene in which Jon discovers the temporal limits of his power to freeze time. His thick line is cartoony but his facial expressions the nuance to convey Suzie and Jon’s flirtatious rapport. The colors by Zdarsky and Sebala set the mood of “Sex Criminals,” one of quirky hijinks and a dreamlike visit to a post-coital frozen landscape, and how this secret and this power has shaped its inhabitants. Zdarky and Sebala set up a contrast between the warm but dull earth tones of the concrete world versus the hazy, misty pastels and carnival bright lights of what Suzie calls “The Quiet” and what Jon calls “Cumworld.”
The laughs and character study of “Sex Criminals” #2 are good world-building, but they don’t quite justify the dragging out of suspense at this early point. The withholding of information feels like manipulation rather than suspense-building. Overall, though, “Sex Criminals” continues to be a great read for its unique concept and its breezy handling of its themes and characters.