One of the things I enjoy more and more about "Sex Criminals" is its versatility. Able to have its characters switch positions and roles at the drop of a hat, "Sex Criminals" #13 lets Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky introduce Alix, a brand-new character who -- up until the end of the issue -- has no real connection to anyone else in the series. Once again, this installment is as exciting as it is adept at probing the insides of our newest cast member.
Each new character has brought something different to "Sex Criminals," and Alix is no exception. Fraction's script shows us her history -- a mix of trepidation over sexuality, losses and threats at home -- and a gradual understanding of herself and who she really is. That last point is the core of both this comic and "Sex Criminals" itself: Alix breaking through the layers of repression covering her (both from outside and inside stimuli) and accepting who she is. After introducing several characters whose powers and sexuality are all near the same center of the spectrum, it's becoming increasingly clear this third story arc is showing us the much wider range that's available. Alix's powers, just like in the previous issue, do more than just stop time just as her sexuality isn't just another guy-on-girl-missionary configuration. Alix is different, but she isn't portrayed as broken or non-functional, and that's something pretty rare in fiction when addressing an asexual character.
Strictly from a plotting vantage point, it's also nice to see how "Sex Criminals" #13 connects to the overall series. Jon and Suzie do have a brief appearance, but there's clearly much more of Alix's story yet to come. The connection between Alix and our dynamic duo isn't what you'd necessarily expect, and the overall map of people who have these abilities is getting more complex with each new arrival. It's a relief, honestly; we're getting a much wider range of personalities and motivations from Fraction instead of a simple "with us/against us" dichotomy.
Zdarsky's art is excellent here; this issue has some of my favorite pages in the series to date. The early two-page spread of Alix on the rooftop with the city spread below her is breathtaking; it's detailed and deliberate, and it as much shows off Zdarsky's skills with architecture as it gives us a much stronger impression of just how high up Alix is at that moment. There are a lot of beautiful, graceful moments throughout this comic, too. Alix's leaping off of the swing as a small child not only has a great deal of exuberance and sense of motion, but it echoes the later scenes of the comic in a visual manner that simple narration wouldn't have brought home. Similarly, teenage Alix's expressions when being pressured to have sex are just perfect; that wary, uneasy look on her face says so much, supplementing her inner monologue in a way that slams home just how alien this experience feels to her.
Fraction and Zdarsky make "Sex Criminals" #13 another winner. Each new installment is that much more entrancing and continues to provide a richer depiction of both the fictional setup the duo have created as well as of sexuality in general. If you've been a little "Sex Criminals"-curious, this is a good place to give it a try. Go on. It'll still respect you in the morning.