“Sex Criminals” the comic series by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is the book no one can get enough of. The first issue of “Sex Criminals” has gone on to an almost unheard of five printings as the issues have disappeared from comic book store shelves, subsequent issues have vanished just as quick. The collected edition of the first five issues of the series, “Sex Criminals Volume One: One Weird Trick,” debuted at the number one slot of the New York Times Paperback Graphic Novel Best Seller List and topping Amazon's Best Seller in Literary Graphic Novels List. What is it about this series that has sparked such a wild demand for this comic published by Image Comics?
Paraphrasing the pitch Fraction used to promote the book prior to publication was that the star characters when they reach sexual climax freeze time. Their whole lives they thought they were the only ones who this happened to. When they meet and realize they can stop time together they decide to do what anyone would and rob banks. But that alone in just the premise, the actual story is much more layered.
“Sex Criminals” is the romantic comedy for the new generation, a generation who grew up on the sexually open and bawdy movies of Kevin Smith, and other movies like the “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Bridesmaids,” and “Wedding Crashers.” The boundaries of what is taboo are tossed out and the language of the book becomes real.
At the core of this book, Fraction and Zdarsky have found what every great story needs, characters that resonate. Suzie and Jon are as endearing as any character out there. They are as identifiable as your co-worker in the cubicle one over, the girl next door, the one night stand from last weekend, or the friend of your friend that you just have to get with but much more interesting.
The story is narrated by Suzie, who is a good choice to gain a perspective on the events. Her point of view is appreciated as she discovers the world of “The Quiet” where she is alone following her orgasms. Seeing the world through Jon’s eyes could get a little sticky. Suzie is a girl who has a troubled past, but the trouble is not rooted is sexual abuse but in the murder of her father. It is a sadness that the character must overcome. It works to enrich her character and give her growth as she uncovers the reality of her special “trick.”
Just as Fraction writes a terrifically funny script that is full of heart, Zdarsky captures the feeling with his art. The art has an animated style that is loaded with narrative detail. Zdarsky brings out the fun in the story with his expressive characters each moment and each scene has something to push the story along while accentuating the funny and the sex.
Suzie and Jon are designed well, they aren’t over-sexualized Hollywood idols. They look like the real people they are. There is a cuteness to them that can help put anyone into their shoes or at least build that connection to their characters.
“Sex Criminals Volume One: One Weird Trick” is not pornographic and is more titillating than anything. The sex and innuendo are explored, explained, and a key part of the story but it is the characters that have made this series the runaway hit. Fraction and Zdarsky have pushed the boundaries of comic books and gone in a new direction using their medium to tell a solid story through words and pictures. The comedy is funny, the sex is amazing, and the characters are entertaining.