After an eight-month hiatus, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are back with Sex Criminals #16. An extended series of recap pages gets us right in the mood as our time freezing, orgasm having, crime doing couple of Jon and Susie are at a big crossroads in their relationship. Most of the issue is narrated from Susie’s perspective as Jon just wants to live in the moment and take out Kegelface, this series’ Big Bad no matter who gets on his way. On the other hand, Susie wants to get more serious with their relationship and even mentions writing down their goals in markers on paper because she’s a big ol’ library-loving nerd. But Fraction and Zdarsky resist the melodrama of a big argument or breakup and continue to be grounded in feelings stemming from a long-term relationship while keeping the dirty puns and constant references to “butt stuff” that made this series hilarious as well as real.
Sex Criminals #16 is a great post-hiatus issue for the series because it zeroes in on the messiness of romantic relationships, and what people want to get out of them in kind of silly, kind of serious way. Yes, Jon and Susie dress up in Teletubby costumes and chase each other with dildos, and Jon might be the “intern” for his favorite porn star growing up. But Sex Criminals #16 has long passages of walk and talk (Or walk, fuck, talk, and eat lo mein.) where Jon and Susie get all their feeling out about each other with Susie’s narration filling in some of the unsaid things.
Fraction hits on a great point through this narration that the reason why Jon doesn’t want fill out lists of goals is because he doesn’t think he’s worthy of a future with her. He is stressed out by Kegelface stealing his personal psychiatric files that talk about his oppositional defiant disorder as well as insecure in his relationship and wants to take her out even if he means breaking the law. Susie just wants him to be happy, and Zdarsky draws a beautiful, almost quiet sequence of them spooning even if this kind of cuddle position has been awkward for them in the past. (Someone’s arm falls asleep inevitably.) It’s a glimpse of happiness in the midst of both the interpersonal/Kegelface drama.
Chip Zdarsky’s coloring choices in Sex Criminals #16 also herald the shift in Jon’s character. In the past, the Quiet has been a trippy world of sexy fun and occasional mayhem filled action against Kegelface and her ultra creepy Sex Cops. But, for Jon, it is all red rage, and Susie is lying on the bed away from him. Fraction and Zdarsky cut to these intense red sequences when Jon is really feeling bad. It’s something that definitely needs to be addressed in their relationship, and hopefully these two crazy kids will break through and stay together.
Sex Criminals #16 reminded me of why I loved this series when it first started out in 2013, which is Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s complete honesty about sex and relationships while still having some hilarious background gags from Zdarsky and an eccentric supporting cast, like the Alix who compares Jon to Don Quixote, and villains.
Story: Matt Fraction Art: Chip Zdarsky
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review