I may have gotten a few things wrong about Sex Criminals, after initially getting them right. When I first started reviewing this book, I was drawn to how the characters shared their back stories, how they recounted their own tales of sexual awakening and exploration. This was done with such humour and grace in those first issues that I was seduced. Here was a plain-talking, intelligent, modern approach to sex ed. It was a breath of fresh air in a world polarized between shaming and exploitation. (Neither of which are on display in this book, except to illustrate someone’s assholery.)
Issues (roughly) #4-7 were more plot-driven, or at least dealt with and led up to events happening in the “here and now” involving our two heroes, Jon and Suzy, and their struggles with life and the Sex Police. The last issue gave us the back story of Robert Rainbow, the hot gynaecologist, which I interpreted as a digression. But here, in issue #9, we get another backstory, and a quite long and intricate one, once again involving struggle, shame, sexual exploration and finally the discovery of another member of the “Quiet” club.
It dawns on me now that these backstories are really one of the most important and progressive elements of this book, probably more important than moving the plot forward. To love Sex Criminals is to love these digressions, and I think I have finally learned how to do that. This issue tells the tale of “Ana”, aka “Jazmine St. Cocaine”, a porn star, sometime stripper, self-proclaimed “party girl”, now College Professor determined to unlock the secrets of The Quiet. It’s a great story, hitting all the right notes and carefully staying out of judgement on the activities being depicted. This issue opens the door to further stories but in keeping with what I’ve discerned to be the house style, they move the plot forward by millimeters rather than leaps and bounds.
[ENTERING SPOILER SPACE]
Ana, who becomes Dr. St. Cocaine, apparently had an injury to her nethers as a child, leaving a scar on her clitoris and labia, making it difficult for her, later in life, to orgasm. In fact, that was almost impossible for her until quite late into adulthood, but that didn’t stop her from using sex in the way her culture had taught her. It’s actually quite an interesting way to recount someone’s journey from clumsy fumblings to hard-core porn. Ana experienced no pleasure from her numerous sexual encounters, being essentially numb in her sex organs, so instead saw that sex, at least in high school, is currency. You can get a long way having lots of sex, if you’re a woman. Having a reputation as an “easy girl” made her socially popular, and she started hanging out with lots guys and partying (which she enjoyed). Ana is a bit of a mercenary, but life has made her this way. From using sex to build wealth in high school, she moves on to building wealth in adult entertainment, and does so shamelessly. As usual with Sex Criminals, no attempt is made to shame her for her sexual choices: quite the opposite.
Time went on, and Ana tries to make a go of it working mimic wage jobs and going to Community College and finding all soul-destroying and dull. Then she walks into a strip club, which she quickly realizes is her ideal habitat. She can shake her body (as drawn, she does have a rather nice one) and grind against guys, an act from which she wouldn’t derive much pleasure at the best of times, but boy does she ever make money. Ana describes it all completely (and I should say appropriately) non-apologetically. She was raking in $1300 a week, partying every day and dong cocaine. Compare that to flipping burgers or working at a bookstore.
Porn, both in terms of film and modelling, was the next logical step. As Ana very reasonably says, “[You] make more than dancing and you make it faster.” It’s during a porn shoot that she experiences oral sex from a woman for the first time, and lo and behold, in the arms (or lips and tongue, I guess) of someone who actually knows what they’re doing, she has an orgasm. And discovers the quiet. Ever since then, Ana has been as fascinated by it as Suzy or Jon, and in her case, the discovery leads to her giving up cocaine, going back to school and trying to have as many orgasms as possible. (Sadly, she’s only been able to mange seventeen.)
Suzy and Jon, in the meantime, are finally back together. Howard the Duck artist Chip Zdarsky gives them a full splash page to consummate their relationship. No matter how much they fight, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky still love these two crazy kids. And so do we.
This issue ends with Suzy and Jon coming face to face with Dr. St. Cocaine, now teaching at Princeton with a blackboard full of data, observations and analyses about The Quiet. Whether she will invite Suzy and Jon to join her in the study remains to be seen.
The next issue of Sex Criminals will apparently make an end point to the series. The first ten issues will be collected into a hardcover, but they will return with the Spring to satisfy everyone’s spring fever.