Friday, March 6, 2015

Bonus Review: Dan Grote on Sex Criminals Vol.2

Sex Criminals Vol. 2

Words by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky

Suzie and Jon’s new-relationship honeymoon is over.

After the rush of discovering they can both use sex to stop time and then using that power to rob banks wears off, the two protagonists of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals settle into the same trappings of habit and resentment that lead to the demise of many couples. They fight and end up “taking a break.” Suzie even goes so far as to ask her substitute gynecologist, Robert Rainbow (great name) out for coffee. Then they fight some more and end up having makeup sex and getting back together.

All the while, the Sex Police are watching.

“Kegelface,” “the Bus Driver” and “the Ninja,” who it should be noted are not actual police, are keeping tabs on everybody with sex-related powers. They have extensive files on Jon, Suzie and everyone else (yes, there are others) who has powers that manifest upon climaxing. They also flat-out demolish Suzie’s library right in front of her, escalating things considerably. As ever, the true enemy of Sex Criminals is sexual repression, as demonstrated by Kegelface’s … um … kegelface.

Their war with the Sex Police aside, Suzie and Jon have real-people problems. Suzie feels bloated and unattractive after going back on birth control pills. Jon has “brain stuff” – ADHD, OCD, paranoia, stress shingles, whatever it is that compels him to poop in his boss’ potted plant – for which he hasn’t taken medication in a while because he feels it dulls his senses (and turns him into a penisless ghost). During the course of the trade, he ends up switching therapists to an abrasive, existentialist, bearded gentleman he met in a mall food court who looks suspiciously like Fraction. (Those Fraction-De Connicks have a habit of being drawn into their own books: Fraction’s wife, Kelly Sue, is the template for a sadistic, mind-screwing, pink hologram in her Image series Bitch Planet.)

Multiple people get to tell their side of the story in this volume, to the point where the reader has to sort through four color-coded narration boxes in one panel. Far from being messy, though, it allows greater insight into more characters. I loved the flashback sequence for Robert Rainbow in issue #8, especially the fact that the hottest woman he’d ever known – his older brother’s high school girlfriend – was a pink-haired tribute to the be-Mohawk-ed Storm of the ’80s X-Men comics.

Among those addressing the camera is Suzie and Jon’s first ally against the Sex Police, stripper-turned-porn star-turned multi-Ph.D. Jazmine St. Cocaine (aka Rae Anne Toots, aka Dr. Ana Kincaid). St. Cocaine is the first to reveal a new set of powers: She can astral-project upon climaxing, like a sexual Charles Xavier getting ready to fight the Shadow King.

Much as the Sex Police would like, the protagonists aren’t keeping their abilities a secret from everyone. Suzie, in a moment of reconciliation, tells her best friend, Rachelle, what she can do. Rachelle responds by telling Suzie about a time she queefed so hard her bedsheets rippled, which is probably the best reaction to a reveal of superpowers since Ultimate Peter Parker revealed himself as Ultimate Spider-Man to Ultimate Mary Jane.

One of the things I like about this book is that while it’s about sex, the central characters aren’t Amanda Conner pinups. Jon is Frankenstein’s Monster tall and has a big nose. Suzie is short and a little thick with thick, frizzy hair. If anything, their “real” body types make them more of an adorable couple worth rooting for.

Favorite Easter egg: In issue 9, three stores are lined up across the street from Suzie’s library. A sign on the right says “Fashion? Turn to the left.” A sign on the left says “Fashion? Turn to the right.” In between: “Oooo Fashion!” If you’re not a sucker for David Bowie-based sight gags, then I don’t want to know you.

Second-favorite Easter egg: In the same issue, Jazmine St. Cocaine’s first porno is titled The Lick-ed and the Divine, a spoof of the Image series The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Dan Grote’s new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He has been writing for The Matt Signal since 2014. He and Matt have been friends since the days when making it to issue 25 guaranteed you a foil cover.

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