Easily the least “sexy” of the series thus far, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s “Sex Criminals” #8 deals with the fallout of Suzie and Jon not quite making it work and agreeing to take a break and everything that entails, including downward spirals, getting your crap back together and meeting new people. In traditional “Sex Criminals” fashion, however, everything is just a little bit more bizarre than usual.
Neither Suzie nor Jon gets a chance to use their special sex powers in this issue as they’re taking some space from one another and Fraction does an incredible job capturing the reality of that situation. Being on a break is a weird blend of sadness and anticipation — for both the potential good and bad that comes of losing someone, and of maybe finding someone new. Suzie does find a potential someone new in the form of the ridiculously handsome OBGYN doctor Robert Rainbow who declares her cervix literally perfect and accepts a coffee date after parading her perfect cervix around for the other med students to see. I guess when you have sex powers your life is not normal in more ways than one. Jon’s story doesn’t hit quite as smoothly, feeling a bit like the necessary evil to advance him to where the story needs him to be. He finds a new therapist and as a result of that begins exercising again, which brings him directly into contact with Suzie and her coffee date with Robert, who Jon knows from childhood. Nothing is ever easy.
The greatest thing about all this well-crafted and really honest feeling look at relationships is that when Suzie and Jon run back into one another, they fall right back into step, together. It doesn’t feel forced, it feels like the most natural thing in the world, for both of them — and that’s a beautiful thing. When Suzie sees her library literally being torn down, it’s Jon who understands on the deepest and most emotional level.
Zdarsky’s art has been so defining for this series and even here with none of the “sex special effects” on display, he finds ways to make the book fun and bizarre. Instead of a boring scene of an (admittedly hot) Dr. Robert Rainbow lecturing Suzie on her birth control options, Zdarsky turns it into a borderline psychedelic strip number, starring Rainbow. There’s also a brutally honest flashback for Dr. Rainbow seeing his parent not just having sex but having –really special sex — not your garden-variety sex, the kind that would be burned into a young brain forever. Zdarsky not only doesn’t pull punches, he revels in the visuals, and never for sensationalistic reasons (well, not reasons that eclipse serving the story first and foremost).
Thought the bizarre and often hilarious visuals of this series are something that is often discussed (with good reason), it’s the more nuanced work that really anchors the book emotionally. Incredible subtleties in Rainbow’s expression as he talks Suzie into showing off her cervix (for medicine!) and again later when he considers her date proposal are the kind of fine expression work that most artists can only dream of. At the same time, the minute details in Suzie and Jon’s faces as they meet on the street again, Rainbow in tow, speak volumes about the intimate bond they share and what they’re feeling. It’s wonderfully layered and smart stuff all around — smart enough that you forget it’s smart and just fall into the emotions, which is exactly where you want to be.
Eight issues in, “Sex Criminals” is going strong. Fraction and Zdarsky have created a book in which the unexpected is always right around the corner, but somehow in a fluid natural way that’s emotionally resonant and fulfilling, even while you’re laughing your ass off.