Matt Fraction is flying high on a couple of books and you will have heard me rubbin’ ferociously over his Hawkeye comic numerous times. He has also become well endowed in the X-Men, Iron Man and Thor departments. Matt lures Chip Zdarsky to bed with him, where he loses his virginity to the Marvel behemoth. Chip has been drawing comic shorts called Monster Cops and Prison Funnies, and writes a column in the Toronto National Post called Extremely Bad Advice. It seems he makes for a comfortable bedfellow in the independent comic scene. I am quite inexperienced with regards to fornication in the graphic art world, and have rarely come across it. The recent comic Sex was certainly far from arousing and I readily recall the sordid sexual imagery of a few Garth Ennis books. Coitus rarely plays a role in the commercial, parental advisory, world of comics. We have plenty of relationships but no sexual intimacy unless, unfortunately, it is part of a villainous act. Sex Criminals is a comic habiting a space of its own, one where sexual liberation is intertwined with humorous relief.
The story is based around a fantastical power to stop time upon reaching orgasm. You may now appreciate where the criminal elements slots into the plot. We are far from reaching that climax yet, as the first two issues probe the sexual escapades of our perverts, Jon and Suzie. The first chapter covered the pubescent experiences of our female lead and has been very well received. It is impressive that Matt Fraction manages to capture the innocence and naivety of a young girl so well. The issue was excellently written and enjoyable, especially considering I had no personal frame of reference for it. This issue takes the male point of view, as it kindles the well-known sexual urges of an adolescent, in the form of Jon the teenager. In issue one we saw a young girl subtly asking for advice from those around her regarding masturbation and sex, whereas here, we have the equivalent inquisition of young boy who goes straight to the font of all knowledge; pornography. It is just brilliant, hilarious and remarkably accurate too.
If you analyse Matt Fraction’s most popular work, you will not find a hint of the character exposition and narrative at play here. It is an impressive piece of composition to take a topic so taboo and historically badly written, and provide a new perspective so successfully. It is a perfect balance between the seriousness of those first sexual experiences and the lighter-hearted and freedom of intercourse as a young adult. The thoughts expressed by the younger Jon and Suzie resonate with the reader and bring back the naiveté lost so long ago. Even though everyone knew about masturbation, nobody was telling us what to do. The inherent guilt of performing a seemingly sinful act is brought out wonderfully in this issue. The other exceptional quality of this book is the contrast between men and women that is expertly juxtaposed by the names given to freezing time by each character. Suzie calls it “The Quiet” and Jon calls it “Cumworld”, after the name of the sex shop he frequented, when no one else was watching.
Chip’s art is quite quirky but brings a naturalistic feel to it. Characters are very distinctive and this appears to be a purposeful effort, especially in a world of regular people and no obvious costumes. Emphasis is placed on hairstyles, jaw structures and eyes and is essential to drawing teenage versions of the characters. They are not just smaller versions of their adult selves. Chip is not an artist obsessed with perfect supermodel characters, which is incredibly refreshing as Suzie is moderately attractive and of fuller figure, whereas Jon has a prominent rounded nose and wears glasses. They are normal individuals and wear normal clothes, and even the nude scenes are not taken from photos of Playboy or Gay Times. There are some delightful scenes of a young Jon running away from bullies in the forest and away from older perverts in the sex shop. You can tell Chip is taking great pleasure at inserting sexual jokes at every opportunity. Sebela assists with the colouring, which is glorious when providing the waves of colour depicting time has frozen, but also Jon’s glowing penis and ejaculate.
There is so much enjoyment to be had at spotting the jokes throughout the book. Some of my favourites include the poster Back to the Pooper, the Pluggery rack and the video Dick Gray & Son. The letters page is splattered with sex tips including, “Sex with just the Tip” and mail from actual readers asking Chip and Matt for sex advice. You can imagine that the comments and the correspondence are suitability entertaining. In talking openly about sexual intercourse and purposely being light hearted about it, Matt and Chip allow the gravitas to be lifted. It brings about a wonderfully honest narrative and unique dialogue, that reverberates with us at one level or another. These two issues are the foundation blocks of the story, based around relatively normal sexual exploits. Upon these they build the Cumworld Quiet fantasy aspects and hint at strange antagonists. I can see this title growing into a madcap fantasy caper, as there can only be more ridiculous sexual scenarios in an attempt to last longer than their adversaries. The book is fun and enjoyable but also removes the sexual taboo out of comics and in general. There is an obvious parental warning, but for the rest of us, take sensible precautions and gird your loins for the kinky frivolity that lies ahead.
“I thought maybe it was the having had sex that people liked”