The basic concept of Sex Criminals sets it up to be one of those books. A young woman and a young man, each with the power to stop time upon achieving orgasm, use their power to commit a bank robbery.
The elevator pitch is damning to those readers like myself that hated the over sexed and under satisfied elements of books like Preacher, The Boys, and Kick Ass. Books that while filled with great story elements, spend copious amounts of time lost in trying to use sex as a hammer to bash the reader into being shocked.
Screw the elevator pitch. It is void of justice.
Matt Fraction has taken a set up for a world that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would prop itself up on its own crude and ridiculous sexual situation. But Fraction takes the idea of sex and evolves it past its carnal elements. He uses sex not as a tool to shock his readers, but as a tool to make his readers think and reflect on what the act of intimacy really means.
As mentioned before the main characters, Jon and Suzie can stop time every time they achieve climax. Of Sex Criminals’ many metaphors this is the most transparent, yet it is the corner stone that Fraction builds the rest of the book on.
Orgasms, by their nature are transcendent. It does feel like time is stopping and, this makes a high science fiction concept immediately relatable to the reader.
In previous issues we have seen Jon and Suzie flashback to having sex with people only to find once their orgasm has finished, they are stuck in a frozen, unmoving world.
Faction uses the time stop to communicate the feeling of a loveless romance. Euphoria, followed by the sober thinking realization that sex with someone you don’t actually have feeling for does not heal loneliness, it just makes you see it clearer.
When Jon and Suzie first have sex they stop time together. It’s the first time either of them have experienced this and not been alone. This is meant to represent falling in love. You feel alone. You think there is no one like you in the world. Then you find that one other person that is like you, and you realize you never have to be alone again.
Again, a lesser writer could sap this up. Two people fall in love and it is communicated via sci-fi mechanism. We have seen this before. Queue the heavy hand.
Sex Criminals is drowning in metaphor and genuine touching moments, but what makes the book so special is it never gets anywhere close to taking itself too seriously. The book’s grounded human moments are wrapped in levity. Characters perpetually break the forth wall. Often speaking directly to the reader or even invading other characters flashbacks or back stories.
As much as this book is built on the small relationships between characters, its levity becomes titanic in the story’s set pieces.
The overarching drama of Sex Criminals lies in Suzie’s desire to save the library she works at from foreclosure. After she meets Jon, they decide to achieve this by using their powers to rob a bank.
This puts them at odds with the Sex Police, a group of people that can also stop time with orgasms that keep similarly powered people from abusing their powers. This is presented to be exactly as silly as it sounds. In the books self-aware nature Jon and Suzie are less surprised by the fact that they are not alone in their ability to stop time and more surprised at just how stupid the Sex Police dress and act.
And after almost 600 words, that leads us to this week’s issue. Sex Criminals #7 is the fall out of the couple’s first real conflict with the Sex Police. After the Sex Police stopped Jon and Suzie from robbing the bank, they worked behind the scenes to get the bank to speed up its foreclosure of the library.
In the closing moments of issue #6 Suzie begins to cry over her failure to save the library. This causes Jon to “declare war” on the Sex Police.
This is an important moment for the narrative, but it is also a continuation of Fraction showing us what it is like to fall in love. Being in love means you will go to war with someone just for making your partner cry.
Jon freezes time to infiltrate the home of the Sex Police’s leader and exact revenge. In the books ongoing playful spirit Jon has only the vaguest idea of what his revenge might be. As he wanders the home trying to figure out what he wants to do, he reflects on the gravity of his powers.
In a flashback we see a tenth grade version of Jon first trying to understand his powers. He first uses them to escape from his social awkwardness. Then, when he develops a crush on a new girl at school, he uses his powers to get close to here because he is too scared to talk to her. As the flashback closes, he uses his powers to lash out at his disassociated father.
He comes to the realization that he can do anything and get away with it. This reflection leads to a come to Jesus moment. He can’t use his powers to lash out at people. That is what a child would do. The “Criminal” part of Sex Criminals falls away in the snap of a finger. It is a momentous moment for the character.
Then Jon uses a Darth Maul stile double ended dildo spear to fight a man wielding an electric flesh light.
The books mastery of juxtaposing its serious character moments with some of the most ridiculous things you have ever seen is terminal and immensely satisfying.
Sex Criminals is not a book that is content doing one thing its own way, but rather it does everything its own way.
As good as Fraction’s work on books like The Invincible Iron Man, The Immortal Iron Fist and Hawkeye have been, Sex Criminals is shaping up to be his opus. The prefect balance of silly nonsense and empathy, Sex Criminals has vaulted onto the Mount Rushmore of current ongoing books.
This is a must for everyone’s pull list. So do whatever it takes to make sure you are reading this. It is not to be missed.