Sex is complicated. People’s feelings about it are complicated. But for most people, the actual moment of orgasm is awfully simple: It feels amazing, as if the entire universe is standing still for just one moment. For the frisky, funny heroes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s comics series Sex Criminals, that moment of stillness goes on a lot longer than it does for you and me. Suzie and Jonathan have both known since they were teenagers that there’s something different about them: Their orgasms stop time, allowing them to walk around a frozen world in a post-coital haze for just a few minutes. When Suzie and Jonathan meet each other, they realize there’s quite a bit you can accomplish with such a talent, if you’re willing to get a little bit adventuresome.
Sex Criminals, whose first five issues are collected in a new trade paperback out now, was the smash debut comic of 2013, each issue selling out multiple printings. It’s easy to see why. It’s not just the sex, though it’s often a sexy comic. It’s not just the adventure, though Suzie and Jonathan’s sex-fueled bank-robbing does go wrong in surprising ways. It’s the book’s bawdy frankness about modern sexual politics that makes it so appealing: Suzie and Jonathan have an extraordinary talent, but they’re ordinary people, kind of perverts, kind of prudes, with complicated feelings about sex. So the book reads not only as a clothing-optional adventure but as a smart and sex-positive take on the state of bumping uglies in America, circa 2014.
It helps that Chip Zdarsky’s art is so wonderfully appealing. Cartoony but realistic, with a lovely sense of light and terrific comic timing, Zdarsky’s illustrations bring both Jonathan and Suzie—and their weird talent—to life. His panels are alluring without feeling exploitative—making Sex Criminals feel, for all its explicit content, like a comic that’s not just for crazy perverts. Totally normal perverts of all genders, shapes, and sizes will love it too. We’re illicitly excited that Chip Zdarsky is illustrating the new issue of the Slate Book Review.
Sex Criminals, Vol. I by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. Image Comics.