SEX CRIMINALS #21 / Writer: Matt Faction / Artist: Chip Zdarsky / Colourist: Becka Kinzie / January 24, 2018
If there is one thing I have learned from binge reading Sex Criminals in my PJs whilst stuffing pizza in my face, it’s this- I hope I never ever get on the wrong side of Chip Zdarsky. That dude’s burns are effing devastating. Though in a weird way, I’d probably consider it an honour.
He’s kind of like if Taika Waititi was, like, a lot meaner. Maybe if he were caught in a transport pod accident with Lewis Black? Anyway, so by Sex Criminals #21, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably become very attached to the main players in Sex Criminals so… this issue might be kind of a difficult read. In a good way.
Jon and Suzie are not in a good place or, indeed, in any place really. They officially broke up six months ago and are trying to move on- Suzie to a more ‘normal’ life and Jon has decided to move full time into ‘The Quiet’ aka ‘Cumworld’ aka ‘The Time Stopping Place They Both Go To Upon Orgasm.’ He wants revenge on Kegelface and has teamed up with two similarly gifted people- one who can create said sort-of forcefield/safety net and another whose splooge has a life of its own.
(Have a guess which one has the animated splooge.)
Look, just read from the beginning, you’ll get it.
This issue is largely filler, but important filler. It’s required if only to be a stepping stone on the way to a bigger revelation and realisation both Jon and Suzie are about to have, so it is not a good starting point at all. I mean, that might be obvious given that we’re twenty-one issues in at this point, but just in case… It’s not a good window into the rest of the series’ more out-there weirdness, but it is a good show-case of how it deals with the mundane, day-to-day awfulness of a recent break-up. Everything feels raw, full of self-doubt and, above all, lonely.
As always, Zdarsky’s art is gorgeous in its simplicity- a perfect blend of clear, straightforward colours and scenes, highlighted with bold, crisp lines. It gives Sex Criminals a down-to-earth edge, which is a weird thing to say about a sex-comedy that involves time-stopping, astral projection, golem-like puppetry and portal creation (sorta), but bear with me. It treats all of these things in the same way it treats sexual adventuring- almost ordinary in its accessibility, but fun and human and amazing. It is sexy, but silly and oddly welcoming. For this issue especially, this removed the risk of bathos- the comedy slides into sadness and seriousness and out again with such effortlessness! It’s like a kind of masterclass in how to treat sex and relationships with care, humour and respect- in a series that also includes a anime splooge fairy-demon. And tiny dick-gremlins.
So, at the centre of this is Faction’s writing. He has brought us to this point- where the anchor to a meta-as-hell sex comedy involving some familiar sci-fi tropes (super familiar to comic readers in particular). See… the recent wave of abusive-asshole revelations against a lot of men in Hollywood has prompted some ‘think’ pieces about the death of the sex comedy and how the new ‘demands’ for consent (which were never new, just ignored for-effing-ever) will mean that no one knows how to make this kind of stuff funny anymore without ‘offending’ someone.
Well, I’d like to hold a big neon sign above Sex Criminals declaring ‘THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT YOU UNIMAGINATIVE SPONGE’.
Sex Criminals has dealt with mental illness, sexual abuse, asexuality, weird fetishes, lines of consent and how it all ties into whether a relationship can survive on sex alone… and still manages to be laugh-out-loud hilarious. So… yeah. It’s not only possible, it’s actually not that hard. It’s like, right there you guys. Faction gets it and that… shouldn’t be news, it’s shouldn’t be an achievement, but well… there you go.
So, to sum up- this is a good stop-gap issue, though light on the bat-shit silliness, still thoughtful and bittersweet, but I’m looking forward to the return to silliness.
Verdict: 4 out of 5.
I’m a thirty something British nerd-mum and wannabe author, fueled by tea, poor decision making and a need to be distracted. Cursed to watch favourite characters die and ships sink.