Here’s one of the many reasons why “Sex Criminals” is such a good series: “Sex Criminals” #9 has Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky spend the majority of the issue introducing a new character and detailing her backstory. And it’s just as compelling as Jon and Suzie’s story of dealing with the Sex Police.
First, don’t get me wrong; Jon and Suzie are still in “Sex Criminals” #9. In many ways, this issue is a big step forward as their infiltration of Kegelface’s lair reveals a key piece of information that could lead toward the fall of the Sex Police, as they decide what to do with that knowledge. Their story is still compelling, and the argument between Jon and Suzie feels startlingly real and familiar. While the exact specifics are of course a little different (unless they’re not, in which case you really should sue Fraction and Zdarsky for stealing your life story of stopping time whenever you orgasm), the overall thrust behind the argument and the way that it plays out will strike a nerve in just about any reader who’s been in a serious relationship. It’s angry, it’s raw and at times each strikes at the other right where it’s going to hurt the most. That’s the real core of “Sex Criminals” as each issue explores the human condition under the veneer of super powers and some hysterically funny jokes.
It’s hard to look away, though, from the secret origin story of Dr. Ana Kincaid, aka Rae Anne Toots, aka Jazmine St. Cocaine. It’s an unflinchingly honest story of someone whose life eventually leads to stripping as well as porn. It’s not for the reasons you so often see in fiction — abused as a child, somehow emotionally broken, a twisted form of revenge — but instead a pragmatic, trying-to-get-forward-in-life story. In other words, it’s not sex-shaming at all, something that you so often see in fiction. It’s refreshing, and Ana’s story works in no small part because of her confidence as she methodically reasons her way into each new shift in her life.
The trademark humor of “Sex Criminals” is still present, of course; don’t think this is all super-serious. The fake porn movie covers from Fraction and Zdarsky are wonderfully ludicrous and laugh-inducing; while parodies of real movies are something always present in porn, seeing ones taking on “Captain EO,” “Alf,” “Les Miserables,” and “Pac-Man” just about had me on the floor (to name but a few). And let’s just say that fans of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s “The Wicked + The Divine” will laugh their heads off when you get to see Ana’s first porn film shoot.
As funny as Zdarsky’s art is, incidentally, it’s still remarkably effective. A lot of what sells the stories of Jon, Suzie and Ana is how Zdarsky shows what’s going on inside their head. This isn’t just facial expressions, but rather their body language. Look at Suzie as she crumbles into Jon at the end of their fight, for example, or how Jon staggers back with his hand up towards his glasses as he physically and emotionally backtracks. Everything here is doubly effective because of how everyone moves and acts like real people. It gives extra girth to their emotional beats, and you believe their stories that much more.
“Sex Criminals” #9, like the issues before it, succeeds because of how much you find yourself caring about the characters. Well, that and the great, larger-than-life concepts that frame the situations that they’re in. Any single element of “Sex Criminals” would make an entertaining comic. Combined together? It’s golden. It’s easy to see why “Sex Criminals” is such a runaway hit: it’s because it’s just so amazingly good.