In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky bring the first arc of “Sex Criminals” to a hilarious yet heartfelt close with its fifth issue, which opens to Suzie and Jon in the hands of the sex police (yes, you read that right). With fantastic characterization, steady world building, and Easter eggs galore, Fraction and Zdarsky leave readers begging for more by the end of this issue.
As a concluding issue, “Sex Criminals” #5 confidently leaves the reader satisfied, albeit with a lot of questions. That is, Fraction asks more than he answers: Just who are the sex police? How many others are there? Where are these people coming from?! However, this never bogs the plot down or overshadows the story. Fraction clearly and definitively finishes the arc he set out to tell: the tale of Suzie and Jon’s bank robbery, from inception to execution through its bungled-up conclusion… but along the way, he has slipped in more than enough fodder for upcoming arcs. What’s more, his writing has an easy, conversational pace that – while it jumps all around the time stream, just like our protagonists – feels natural, comprehensive, and personal in a way that reads like listening to a friend tell a story.
Fraction takes his time with this story, spacing out his world building in compact and often ludicrous ways; in fact, these slow developments only serve to make the characters more and more intriguing, namely in the form of the mysterious Kegelface. While the narration is largely in Suzie’s voice, Fraction and Zdarsky opt to show bits and pieces of Kegelface’s rather ordinary life. The sheer difference between her absurd sex police position and her soccer mom identity serves up a titillating, often hilarious disparity, made better by the fact that her characterization remains constant no matter what situation she’s in. While Fraction anchors Suzie and Jon with a real sense of humanity, Kegelface is larger-than-life, oddly terrifying, and endlessly fascinating.
Zdarsky is more than capable of keeping up with Fraction’s fast-paced humor. His fantastic panel work is intimately detailed, rewarding readers who take the time to go through each scene with a fine-toothed comb by dropping numerous Easter eggs in the background (my favorite being the lovely “America” poster that features Batman and JFK, among others). Of course, the hilarity doesn’t stick to subtle cues alone; there’s plenty to look at in the foreground, including a whimsical roleplaying scene and on-the-nose facial expressions that’ll send readers into fits of laughter. However, Zdarsky knows when to tone it down, infusing real pathos into the characters in scenes the demand it, such as the oddly sweet arrest scene and Jon and Suzie’s tense conversation about medication. Zdarsky and colorist Becka Kinzie add great atmosphere to the book with multiple neon tones that highlight the absolute absurdity of Suzie and Jon’s situation, especially the hot pink that colors the Quiet.
At its very core, “Sex Criminals” is a book about two ordinary people who can do extraordinary things together. For all its fantastical elements, Fraction and Zdarsky drive home the fact that this is a story about two wholly human characters and their relationship with all the fun and heart and strings attached. From tender start to explosive end, “Sex Criminals” #5 is so enjoyable that you may stop time yourself!