“Robin Hood and Thomas Crown were both thieves in the end. You’d think I was smart enough to remember that.”
This line of dialogue is buried in the middle of “Sex Criminals” #11 but, in many ways, it feels like the most important pivot point for the entire issue to be based upon. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky kick off the first chapter of “Sex Criminals'” third volume of with Jon and Suzie’s attempt to find others like them, even as they discover that not everyone will be so blase about the whole robbing banks thing.
One of the things that works right off the bat is the way Fraction inserts several reality checks. It would be easy to leave them out; the plotting would certainly become simpler, and the characters could continue down a very likable path. However, this series shows that the “easy way out” is never actually easy, and “Sex Criminals” #11 is no exception. The reaction that Jon and Suzie get to their admission of where their money comes from is perfect; even though it’s in the title, it’s sometimes easy to overlook that these are criminal actions. Along those lines, it feels like we’re heading to a point in the series where the repercussions will get larger and continue to hang over our protagonists. It’s just a small step here, but it’s crucial.
The introduction of Douglas D. Douglas is another such moment of reality. Watching him go through his mundane job as an orderly coupled with watching his mother (who, ironically, can’t afford a care facility like the one Douglas works at) and getting a real sense of accomplishment and fulfillment isn’t the sort of character you’d normally see in a book like this. He doesn’t have a glamorous job, but he also isn’t yearning after one. This touch of the everyday alongside Suzie and Jon in the hotel racking up bills is a great, quiet comparison, even as it also sets up the final page and its strange moment of the fantastic with yet another deliberate shift in mood.
Zdarsky’s art keeps pace with Fraction’s script and is able to run the full emotional range needed. When Jon and Suzie thrown out of an office early on, for example, the panels of Jon’s face are perfect. I love how he looks both shocked and hurt on that initial focus, with his dreams and hopes suddenly crumbling down all around him in the blink of an eye. Compare it to a few panels later, where he has that ridiculous forced smile on his face, trying to salvage some sort of dignity. It’s sad but great at the same time. Even the postures in the sex scenes here are well designed; there’s a stiffness in the moment with Robert and Rachelle that isn’t present a page earlier with Myrtle and the Doc. It’s the same actions but with very different reactions, and it’s part of what makes “Sex Criminals” #11 so appealing; that is, its distinct lack of a one-size-fits-all approach to sex, to characters or anything else in its pages.
There’s still a nice vein of silly humor running through “Sex Criminals” #11, so don’t think this book has gotten a little too serious. From “CSI: Miami” jokes to writer asides in place of a trip to an ethnic grocery store, there’s a vein of ridiculousness that keeps the book from ever getting dark and depressing. With juggled plotlines and a growing, expanding cast of characters, every new issue of “Sex Criminals” is a real joy to read. It’s great to have “Sex Criminals” back, and doubly so to have a market that embraces this sort of smart, sexy, silly serial. Bring it on.