Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is a graphic novel about Suzie and Jon, a couple who both share the same gift: time stops when they have sex (available April 29, 2014).
With a title like Sex Criminals, you’d expect a book that’s either lurid or salacious. Such is the genius of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky though that their work here, while definitely intended for mature audiences, never veers towards the exploitative. Instead, they’ve created a graphic novel that’s both thoughtful and funny, that doesn’t shy away from honest discussions of sex and grieving and health while still being an awesome time-travel romp and crime caper.
But let’s allow the writing to speak for itself, with this excerpt from the opening pages that sets the tone for the entire book:
Let me start at the start. This guy killed my dad. It's Tuesday, October 26th, 1997, and just a second ago, this guy killed my father and shot two other people. The stock market crashed yesterday, apparently, and he lost everything. Except for a gun and his cocaine psychosis. He showed up here, at the world headquarters of BankCorp, looking to settle some scores.
My dad was an accountant. Didn't even know the guy. I'd like to think Dad died heroically. Maybe saving somebody. Maybe he jumped between the guy and a pregnant lady or something. Anything to keep it from being so random.
I swear the sex and the jokes are coming. Hang on.
The narrator, Suzie, discovers soon after that when she has an orgasm, time literally stops for her.
It’s a secret she keeps, and every so often uses to her advantage, for years…until she meets Jon at a fundraising party she and her roommate are throwing. At first, she’s taken by his self-deprecating wit:
Suzie: You're an actor?
Jon: Well, no. I wanted to be an actor.
Suzie: But really you're a waitress?
Jon: Secretary, actually. Kind of a secretary.
Suzie: You sound very secure in your masculinity. Most guys would say— would say—
Jon: 'Personal assistant.'
Suzie: Right! Right.
Jon: Yeah, I'm a secretary. What about you?
Suzie: I throw parties to save libraries.
Jon: Pretty sure it's pronounced 'libarries.'
Suzie: They teach you that at acting school?
Jon: At the Royal International Academy Of Actoring, yes.
Suzie: Ooh, a college boy.
Jon: A college man. A college man-secretary, even.
Suzie: Can you do David Niven?
Jon: Well, he's been dead for thirty years. It'd be pretty gross. He wouldn't say no, though, I guess.
But when she discovers, post-coitus, that Jon shares the same ability she does, it opens up a whole world of possibilities for them.
As they become more and more involved, Jon suggests, seemingly as a joke, that they use their ability to rob banks, channeling all the gains to saving the library she’s so passionate about. Suzie lets herself get swept up in his plans, until running into others who share their ability causes her to question why it is they’re really on their crime spree.
The writing is sharp, capturing both realistic monologue and dialogue, as quoted above. The art is astonishing, full of hilarious details (check out the Family Circus homage in the adult video store) and gorgeous imagery. It might come as a surprise that the art is all strictly R-rated despite the subject matter, in which self-censorship itself is played for laughs. Fraction and Zdarsky also include a ton of bonus material, such as an original script for a comic radio show about a sexy chat line.
As signaled by the frank title, this book isn’t going to be for everyone. But it is meant to provoke the mature reader into thinking beyond stereotypes about sex and relationships—and even crime—in the modern world. If you think you’ll enjoy a sex-positive, humorous take on a super-powered Bonnie & Clyde, then this is definitely a book you’ll want to check out.
To learn more about, or order a copy, visit:
Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.