As I have probably mentioned before in discussing Sex Criminals, it’s not really about sex. Of, of course there’s a lot of sex in the comic, and that’s a major plot point, and it’s dealt with (amazingly) in a straight-ahead matter-of-fact way. That wouldn’t be so surprising were it not so rare for comics, or any other form of popular art on this continent for that matter, to talk about sex as if their audience consisted of adults, rather than snickering teenaged boys.This issue has one of the more interesting sex scenes yet attempted by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, but as “Dr. Chip” himself points out here, this isn’t about sex. It’s about love. And that’s far more complicated and dangerous.
Well, we should revise that to mention that it’s mostly about love. It’s also about criminal behavior, as implied by the title. And here we get a key piece of information about the Sex Police, and there’s definitely some forward momentum on the big narrative arc of the book. (The fact that this took 10 issues to come about is simply the style the creators have chosen. With Sex Criminals, pardon the pun, the key is to enjoy the ride.)
[Spoilers past this point]
In the previous issue we were treated to a long backstory for a new character, “Dr. Cocaine”, a former stripper and porn star with a damaged clitoris who is now a PhD-wielding scientist who explores strange orgasmic phenomena. Jon and Suzy ended the previous issue in her office, asking her for any information about their special power. The gruff professor here lights a smoke, listens to what they say and agrees to include them in her research. She’s even heard of “That Tilda Swinton-looking bitch,” aka Kegelface, the self-appointed leader of the Sex Police.
It turns out that the Sex Police aren’t really police at all. They may be commissioned by the police, but their funding is private, from one of the Sex Police themselves, and their authority is all self-made. So, when their true status is revealed, Suzy and Jon are even more anxious to “shut her down”. This provides the meta-narrative thrust, but first, the prof has to study what exactly their powers are. This calls for an odd “road trip” to a dingy motel where they take adjoining rooms. The challenge then becomes for them to orgasm together, which is accomplished via clumsy text messaging (and in Dr Cocaine’s case, a veritable arsenal of toys), but while Suzy and Jon stop time during the “quiet”, the Prof turns into a “weird sex ghost” who can float around outside her own body.
Two other subplots run through this issue: one involving Jon and his meetings with “Dr Chip”, and the other showing the budding romance between Rachael and Dr Rainbow, the gynocologist. We first met “Dr Chip”, the psychotherapist obviously drawn to look like an older version of Chip Zdarsky, a few issues ago in a mall food court. He has since taken Job on as a patient, and the therapy sessions between them. But the way Zdarsky draws Jon’s mental journey is touching and scary. There’s a big black box in Jon’s imagination, sitting in the middle of an empty room. And that black box contains everything he fears. He talks around his issues, beyond his issues, and all manner of other distraction tactics until Dr. Chip hits the nail on the head: “You’re talking about love, not sex.”
And that’s just it. Jon is in love with Suzy, and can’t work up the courage to tell her. For those who might thing this is making mountains out of molehills, it isn’t, at least for honest people. There’s a multitude of disastrous responses to that admission, and I’m sure Jon has heard them all. It’s a big risk to tell someone that, even someone as sweet and wonderful as Suzy. Later, after a breakthrough session with Dr Chip, the two share a sweet, very real and human, conversation on a park bench. Suzy munches the same chicken Dr Chip favoured in the food court and smiles with patient understanding as Jon speaks of his progress. Later still, while they are having sex in the motel, trying to have a simultaneous orgasm with Dr Cocaine, Jon tries repeatedly to blurt it out, but Suzy, concentrating for obvious reasons, hushes him. It goes unsaid, at least here, but now we as readers know something about our hero couple that they don’t fully realize themselves.
The third-string story is of Robert Rainbow and Rachael. Rainbow, Jon’s old childhood friend, has matured into a handsome and very successful gynocologist, and Rachael (Suzy’s old friend from as far back as Junior High) is deeply smitten. She doesn’t exactly beat around the bush, raising her skirt in a public bookstore after Rainbow tells her of his love for children, saying, “Put your baby in me.” Later, she “takes” him in a car in the parking lot of the motel where Jon and Suzy and Dr Cocaine are having their orgasm fest. It feels like the most “vanilla” of relationships in the book, which is why I suspect it’s going to take an unexpected turn at any moment.
The humour and emotional depth of Sex Criminals, as well as the always-excellent art, keeps bringing back thousands of readers each month. It’s become a phenomenon in the comics world, and rightly so. Probably the most difficult thing to believe is that we’re only on issue #10.