With the 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards fast approaching, people may be asking questions about some of the books featured in this year’s line up of nominations. Every category is essential to the Eisner’s, but of course one of the most talked about categories is always the nominations for Best New Series. There’s a constant buzz around this category, and whenever there’s a hot new series out it’s pretty hard to stop talking about it. For me, Sex Criminals was definitely one of those hot new books that happened to me this year. I’ve been raving about it constantly since issue #1 first hit the stands, so in my countdown to the Eisner’s, I thought it only appropriate that I start with this one.
Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick, the first volume of an Image published comic by Matt Fraction (writer of things like Casanova, Satellite Sam, and Hawkeye) and Chip Zdarsky (artist of Prison Funnies and Monster Cops), is one of five books nominated in the category of Best New Series as well as the category for Best Continuing Series. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sex Criminals won’t go home without at least one award, if not all of them, but we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we? As you might be able to tell just from the title alone, one of the book’s main themes revolves a lot around sex. But it’s not a porn comic, guys, sorry. It’s so much better than that. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you.
Suzie is a woman who, as a young girl, finds out through some innocent experimentation that she could stop time with her orgasms. She goes through much of her young life confused and sexually ignorant in a world that didn’t want to guide or teach her, something I think most people can relate to at some point in their lives. The way she goes about her youth trying to find answers to the big questions is both hysterical and sympathetic, because really, barring the obviously weird time-stopping factor, most of us have been there. She doesn’t know what’s happening to her, or why when she orgasms, she’s able to stop time and exist in a lonely world she calls The Quiet. That coupled with a dead father, an alcoholic mother who Suzie can’t communicate with, and a constant feeling of being an outcast? It’s hard not to feel for this girl. But the funny part’s coming soon, I promise.
This is the story of girl meets boy. As an adult, Suzie meets a man named John, at a party Suzie and her roommate Rachel are throwing to save a library. The bank has foreclosed on the library Suzie works for, and she’s taken it upon herself to buy as many of the library’s books as she can in order to keep them from the dreaded bank, and throw book parties in the hopes of raising some money to stick it to The Man. They can take her library, but they cannot take her books. Or at least, that was the original plan. The night of the party Suzie and John meet for the first time, in the most perfect meet-cute I’ve ever read in a comic. He quotes Lolita and Suzie’s smitten, soon discovering behind closed doors after a close encounter that they both share the same gift for being able to stop time. So what happens next? They become inseparable, of course. And then they decide to start robbing banks.
I love this comic so much because it was unexpected. You hear a title like ‘Sex Criminals’, and yes, there are certain assumptions to be made from a title like that but I guarantee every one of them would be wrong. It’s an honest, genuine depiction of two young people in the midst of their sexual awakenings, discovering something about themselves that makes them feel alone in the world. That is, until they find each other. Yes, there is a lot of sex in the book, but it’s more hilarious than arousing. It’s insanely charming: Fraction’s sex jokes are inventive and spot on, his use of dialogue pointed and meaningful. The story is well balanced, the first half focusing on Suzie’s own coming of age and the second half giving us insight into John’s rise to manhood. There’s also a Queen montage that will make you appreciate Fat Bottomed Girls in a whole new light. And the idea to use their powers for good to rob a bank and save a library? It’s so modern day Robin Hood in the most refreshing way possible.
Sex is always a controversial topic, and they really don’t hold back with this one. The talk is crude and unapologetic, while the imagery leaves little to the imagination (while also being beautiful and surprisingly tasteful — Zdarsky is an extremely talented artist). If you’re not comfortable with that sort of thing, maybe I can understand why a person wouldn’t like it as much as I do, but the story is so endearing that I now can’t imagine a world without it. Also, this is the most female positive book I’ve ever read where a woman’s sexuality and the act of masturbation is not considered taboo. There’s also incredible panels inside a porn shop John calls ‘Cumworld’, with a million little details that you should read over at least three times to not miss any gems. Suzie talks to the reader a lot, like Ferris Bueller but with better hair. And if you’re buying it in trade, Fraction and Zdarsky left some fun back matter for the reader including a step by step process for the making of their famous Sex Criminals #1 4th printing cover.
Now, this is only my first Eisner Watch review and we have a ways to go until July, so I’m not immediately prepared to put all my eggs in one basket just yet. But if I had any real say in the matter, this comic isn’t a bad egg to put in your basket. There’s probably some bathroom stall graffiti for that move somewhere. I do think Sex Criminals is a complete shoe-in, a ground breaking comic about love and sex and what you would do if you suddenly found yourself with the crazy ability to stop time. In a world full of bad breaks and desperate people, their answer to that was far from predictable. It was down right revolutionary. As Suzie so wisely and pointedly says, “the bank’ll take everything you love, sooner or later.” So what would you do, present and future brimpers? Read Sex Criminals, obviously.