It can never be emphasized enough how remarkably worthwhile it is to have Sex Criminals in the comic book industry, especially considering reminders like the latest issue. Packed into this issue are hilarious jokes in the foreground about dick pics and ludicrous amounts of sexual innuendo hidden in the background, but that certainly isn’t it. There’s also a lot of focus on Jon’s current, multifaceted issues with his mental health and hesitance towards progressing his romantic relationship with Suzie. Sex Criminals is one of the goofiest comics on the stands, but it’s also one of the smartest; issue #10 delivers in spades with a story that calls for a lot of laughter but also just as much emotional investment.
This latest issue continues the series trend of absolutely nailing various kinds of character interaction, with just the right nuance. Whenever readers observe a session between Jon and his blunt, yet helpful therapist, for example, every subtle bit of the conversation clicks. Jon’s dialogue is filled with the perfect amount of hesitance when trying to talk about the most naturally difficult things to verbalize in that context. Beyond Matt Fraction’s dialogue, Chip Zdarsky’s art also goes a long way in carrying scenes like these. Regularly, panels devote themselves to text-less displays of facial expression that are just as essential as the words. There’s a great amount of subtlety to small but crucial moments for setting the scene for such a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere, like whenever Jon’s therapist bites his pen in thought before saying something particularly bold and discomforting. There’s even some surreal, eye-catching, dream-like panels thrown in here and there that further paint an evocative picture of what Jon is going through.
That same level of written and visual nuance finds itself in a wide variety of conversations in Sex Criminals #10, from the always sweet interactions between Jon and Suzie to Robert Rainbow opening up about his love for delivering babies. The variety of emotional highs and lows is really something, and it all works as a whole; in the end, it’s a book that is consistently about intimate, empathetic looks at people and their respective sex lives. Delving into deeply explicit and therefore uncomfortable subject matter quite frequently, Fraction and Zdarksy thankfully understand how efficient comedy is as a lubricant for telling these stories in a way that isn’t gross, with a level of socially aware respect that comes off as inclusive rather than mean.
This comic is hilarious. The most prolonged comedic scene is a conversation between Suzie’s roommate Rachelle and Robert Rainbow, with unabashedly graphic and humorously truthful exaggerated mock-ups of dick pics exchanged on instant messenger meet-up apps. There’s a tendency among males to be a whole lot more forthcoming about sexual interaction in these settings, and these exchange pokes fun at this with a healthy dosage of sneakily placed and delightful puns. In fact, hidden in the background of the book store this conversation takes place in is a smorgasbord of almost childish sex gags that trigger loads of snorting. These little bits are stupid and immature, but their placement as congested background objects fits nicely; you just may find the snort over every hidden innuendo turning into an accumulative laughing fit.
This series flirts with the ridiculous quite a lot despite its characterization often hitting so close to home. There’s the simple fact of that conversation casually, without any acknowledgement from the characters, taking place in a book store filled with books and book sections entirely made up of goofy sex jokes, but also things more overt. The original elevator pitch for this series, remember, was a couple using orgasm-induced time-stopping powers to rob banks, and over time the series has progressed to adding a group of “Sex Police” who use self-imposed authority to regulate folks with these powers. In this issue, this fun, silly part of the plot is fleshed out a bit more in a way that doesn’t take away from enjoyment in favor of world-building. This issue also establishes what appears to be a selection of characters to frame the next arc around, melding just right with the upped stakes that come along with the continued fleshing out of the overarching Sex Police conflict.
Sex Criminals #10 succeeds on so many levels, kicking ass in dialogue, visual storytelling, socially-aware commentary and representation, as well as fiendishly funny comedy. This issue successfully ends the first arc with a fantastic climax, prompting a break before the series returns to work readers back up to another satisfying end.
That was an orgasm joke.
Story: Matt Fraction Art: Chip Zdarsky
Story: 8.75 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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