Today, Patrick and Greg are discussing Sex Criminals 3, originally released November 20th, 2013.
Patrick: We live in a sex-negative society. We’re all made to feel embarrassed by urges, our desires and our sexual failings. It sucks: movies and TV will evoke Gay Panic or Slut Shaming for laughs, assuming that their audiences all share the same puritanical views on sex. And then there’s smart sex-positive media, like the series we’re talking about today – and it gets filed away with the rest of “dirty” comics (and off iOS for a second month in row), to protect us from the filth within. Look, the signals are coming from everywhere: you should feel bad about wanting to read this comic. That’s why real, naked honesty is so important for sex – being able to express sexuality honestly is about as intimate as you can get. Sex Criminals 3 embraces all of it – the urges, the desires and the failings. [Ironically, I do feel the need to warn that there are some explicit images after the jump.]
Our embarrassing stories start with the Tale of Jon Losing His Virginity. It was college, it wasn’t even the girl’s room, and the whole scene is presided over by an inescapably cheesy pop song. In short, it was embarrassing. To further the embarrassment, Jon doesn’t come the first two times they do it. The third time, though: boy howdy. But Cara with a C doesn’t join Jon in Cum World, so his life-long search for a Sexual Partner continues, including a relationship with a dude named George. Suzie reacts to this with bewildered curiosity, but ultimately she knows all too well what Jon was looking for.
That’s a bunch of sexual embarrassment that Jon’s just uploaded into his very young relationship with Suzie. It’s a beautiful spilling-of-the-guts moment, suggesting that their connection goes beyond just being able to experience their Magic Orgasm Powers together, but to intimately share the details of all the strife those powers have caused. Sharing a sexual history in this much detail with anyone is intimidating, and it strengthens the bond between these characters immeasurably. They’re not just Romeo and Juliet any more – suddenly they’re Harry and Sally (but, y’know: fuckin’).
From there, Jon and Suze move into the scariest part of any new relationship: that first period apart. They try to get on with their daily business, but thoughts of the other keep creeping in. And then the texting starts with an innocuous “hey.” Their days become cell phone foreplay for that evening’s sexy outing to Cum World – the porno store, not the unexplained time-stopping phenomenon. They have a blast and the message is clear – no matter how badly the real world’s gotten them down, they still have each other.
And that leads into my favorite scene in the book. At a pool bar later that night, Suzie puts Queen’s Fat Bottom Girls on the jukebox and does a full-on musical number. The surreal shimmer of the Quiet / Cum World returns, and she gets back-up dancers and Freddie Mercury’s trademark yellow military jacket and white shorty shorts. That happens — it takes up like 4 pages of the issue — but it appears that Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky weren’t able to clear the rights to the song in time to print any of the lyrics. Instead, Fraction seeming puts little post-it notes over the speech balloons, carefully detailing this failure. That explanation comes to a head at the climax of the fantasy, in a moment of happenstance too perfect for words.
The music video-ism are on full-tilt here – someone Fraction sheepishly confesses to always wanting to do in a comic. This is Fraction offering that same kind of intimacy that Jon had previously offered to Suze – it’s something that he wanted, with all his heart, to do and this is the embarrassing story of how it didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to. Of course, it’s kind of hard to know if Fraction’s confession-notes are telling the truth here, but just like a partner bearing the sexual history, it feels like we’re making a real, intimate connection with him. We’re privy to that embarrassment, and we love him all the more for it.
There’s also a little bit of forward motion to the bank-heist / there-are-sex-cops portion of the story too, but that’s such a downer, and I’m just excited to be included what feels like real intimacy, so I have a hard time focusing on anything else. Greg, do you have any guesses as to what’s going on with these guys? They seem to have at least some kind of sense of humor about what they do –that dude smacks Jon in the face with a dildo for crying out loud — but at the moment, they just seem like buzzkills. Maybe they are the inevitable consequences of fun sexy-times… Ugh, that’s bringing me down. Let’s listen to Fat Bottom Girls and read what Greg has to say about the issue: that’ll cheer me up.
Also, buddy, do you know the Esteban from Jon’s story? I think he might be made up, and Google failed me in the research department. Unless he’s that guy that sells guitars and how-to-play-guitar tapes on late-night TV, I’m at a loss. You got any leads on that?
Greg: Esteban is definitely made up, but based on his description as being a British crooner, his fun wavy hair, and his deliciously non-subtle tune about everything being awful, it seems like he’s Fraction’s satirical poke at Morrissey, a, well, British crooner with fun wavy hair who often writes about everything being awful. Definitely odd, and appropriately unfortunate music to get your mojo going.
As for the hard dildo slap of reality that closes the issue, I absolutely agree with you that it’s a buzzkill to a largely beautiful, honest, and intimate portrayal of the butterflies in stomach, stay up until early in the morning spilling your guts, text penis emoticons beginnings of a relationship (emoticocks?). Yet I’d argue that, ambiguous plot machinations aside, it’s an appropriately jarring and unpleasant symbol of what happens after the initial honeymoon period. Ideas of the perfect fairytale romance (in this case, symbolized by sexy times in a porno booth and Queen in the pool hall) dissipate when real life shit comes into play. You don’t stay up late jokingly talking about your awkward formative sexual experiences; you stay up late heatedly arguing about little things that set you and your partner off. This could just be speculation, but Jon’s robbery suggestion and the botched results could be our first hints at rocky relationship roads ahead. Take a look at the last foreboding warning given:
Until this moment, however, I’m in total accord with you, Patrick; this issue’s full-blown transparency, intimacy, and focus on human connection, both physical and mental (whether it’s between Jon and Suzie or Fraction and the reader), is accessible, accurate, and lovely. After leaving the porn booth, Suzie and Jon gush in their afterglow that they feel like they’ve cut out the middleman, and they can do anything. While this may appear to be superficial throwaway, post-handjob “pillow talk” that ultimately signifies nothing, it’s kind of a beautifully succinct summation of how this period of the relationship feels, particularly when involving sexual experiences. Because sex is such a connective, intimate action that culminates in physiological release (in Jon’s case, third times the charm), it follows suit that people want to experience emotional release as well. Good sex between people who care for each other can remove barriers, put guards down, cut out the middleman. It can momentarily eliminate all stresses, limitations, insecurities. As you put it, Patrick, even when other factors of life have you shitting in plants, the fact that you have each other, physically, emotionally, and everything in between, can make you feel like you can do anything, and this issue renders that poignantly.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?