Sex Criminals has always been one of those books that needs to be read a couple of times after purchasing. Usually to catch all the weird visual jokes that get placed in the backgrounds of panels. For the fourteenth issue subtitled “Ladies Please,” it’s to understand just how the disjointed nature of this issue works to its advantage.
The issue is mostly about Suzie and Myrtle. Myrtle is still having sex with Jon’s therapist to get information about him while Suzie and Jon start work at their new and crappy jobs. Jon is working as Ana’s research assistant while Suzie has started work in a new library. One day while sending dirty texts to Jon, Suzie makes some crass comments about Ana’s previous life as a porn star, which leads to a confrontation in The Quiet between the two of them.
Well, in the actual timeline of the story. In the timeline of the comic, we’re actually greeted with a fourth wall break as Matt Fraction struggles to write the scene and ends up calling Chip Zdarsky, asking for help.
From the sounds of it, a lot of this dialogue between the creators is taken directly from conversations the two had about the scene as it was originally planned to play out, with Suzie being judge-y of Ana, but Fraction has reservations of how this comes across. How it all ties back to how insidious and judgmental our culture is in regards to amount of sexual partners and sex workers, but how Ana isn’t exactly in the right either to act as if Suzie’s intentions with the library aren’t genuine. It’s complicated, clumsy, and it’s a bit revealing to see Fraction and Zdarsky hash it out like this.
On first pass, the scene is jarring in the middle of the story, especially after it jumps back into the story as a whole. Hysterical, especially with Chip drawing himself like a cokehead high on his own rising star simultaneously, but jarring. However, on a second read, after seeing how out of it Suzie has become, the outright statement of theme from our creators actually ties back into the story kind of brilliantly. It shows the kind of vulnerability that the series has been known for, especially in an issue where two of the characters are finding themselves in places they’re not sure they want to be in. The theme of the arc may be about “who gets to decide who’s a monster and who isn’t,” but a lot of this issue seems to be about being at a crossroads as well. Suzie isn’t into robbing banks with Jon anymore. Rach doesn’t know what to do about her relationship with Robert. Myrtle might be getting something else out of her relationship with Jon’s therapist. Matt can’t figure out how to write a scene. It all ties together in a strange sort of fashion.
Plus, the decision to “full-on Chuck Jones” the entire conversation and to play up the Zdarsky character super hard may be one of the funniest things this book has done.
If you’re having a hard time with the latest Sex Criminals at first pass, give it another read and see how it all ties together. What comes across as disjointed at first actually has a strange sort of clearness once the thread that ties it all together becomes clear. This book has always been about vulnerability and to see it upfront and hysterically done is kind of amazing.
Story: Matt Fraction Art: Chip Zdarsky
Story: 7.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review