Sex Criminals 4

Alternating Currents: Sex Criminals 4, Drew and Kyle

Today, Drew and guest writer Kyle are discussing Sex Criminals 4, originally released January 8th, 2014.

Drew: The first stage of the hero’s journey, according to Joseph Campbell, is the call to adventure: the moment where the hero is tasked with leaving the comfort of home behind, and heading off into the unknown. Of course, most stories spend a good deal of time in that “known” before any real action is taken — we need to be introduced to our hero, their values, and what’s at stake before any threats can really take hold. Often, the action they’re called to sounds MUCH more exciting than the quiet comfort they’re leaving, but every once in a while, I find myself so enamored of a fictional world that I don’t want to move on to the adventure. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have created such a world in Sex Criminals, so while I’m sure many folks are excited to move into the plot proper in issue 4, I find myself wondering why we can’t keep sitting around and sharing embarrassing sex stories.

The issue finds Jon and Suzie planning their robbery in earnest. Er, robberies — it turns out that stealing $160,000 at once might garner some unwanted attention, so they pick it up in dribs and drabs, eventually working their way up to the big branch: the scene we’ve seen playing out since issue 1. Turns out, Kegelface (the sex policewoman we’ve seen pursuing them) is already wise to their abilities, and is tracking them down. Her investigation is brought to a head (heh) when Suzie’s roommate suspects that she and Jon are up to something, and calls the cops, leading to that confrontation we’re all duly familiar with. Hey, speaking of that confrontation, the issue ends with Jon and Suzie being tased by Kegelface’s goons.

It’s a largely procedural issue, sticking pretty close to cause-and-effect, and keeping the chronology largely intact. We don’t get any of the cute flashbacks of Suzy or Jon’s early sexual exploits, and the series seems to have largely moved past the heady rush of the earliest days of a new relationship. Instead, we’re treated to the story of the one time Suzy used her time-stopping abilities for something other than just finding some quiet time to herself: when she got back at a scumbag jock who had raped her roommate.

Geoff gets his comeuppance

It’s an empowering story for Suzie, but it’s also a big departure from the irreverent tone this series has so carefully crafted. I’m certain that’s the point: there is an ugly side to sex, an unfortunate reality that sits right next to all the fun we’ve been having. More importantly, that reality robs this series of its innocence, delivering an all-too real story that intrudes on a world we were otherwise enjoying. It’s a surprisingly effective metaphorical rape, which also reveals a great deal about Suzie’s roommate and their relationship.

It’s an important, necessary scene, but it also speaks to why I’m struggling to enjoy this issue whole-heartedly: it focuses on characters and relationships that aren’t Jon and Suzie. That kind of scope-broadening is inevitable (honestly, it’s impressive that we went three issues without ever veering from these two), but it means that all of the things I loved about the first few issues is now going to share space with new elements.

That’s not to say that those new elements aren’t intriguing — we get some hints about the sex police that suggest that this isn’t their day job, but still no solid leads on who or what they are — just that they’re entirely separate from the forum for embarrassing sex stories this series had become. That’s also not to say that this issue is devoid of raunchy guffaws — this issue’s trip to Cumworld introduces more hilarious porn parodies (my favorites are all titles from the “tainted childhood” movie section, including “Fraggle Cock” and “She-Ra and the Masters of the Pooniverse”) — but that humor is now cut with some decidedly un-funny concepts.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being too hard on this issue. It’s hard to begrudge a series for wanting to expand its emotional range, and the treatment of Rach’s rape is easily one of the most respectful I’ve ever seen in a comic. Still, a part of me just wants to stay in the giddy world of those early issues. Kyle, I’m curious about your thoughts on this issue — did you experience any growing pains adjusting to the tonal shift, or are you excited to find out just what the heck Kegelface’s deal is?

Kyle: You bring up an interesting point, Drew. For any story to be a story, our hero(es) must venture forth; throw off that warm, fuzzy blanket, get out of bed, and stumble out past the threshold into whatever lies beyond. But did Gilgamesh ever have a dildo thrown in his face? Did Odysseus watch Hard-On Fink or jump around in a vulva sleeping bag? Maybe if they did, they wouldn’t have left in the first place.

In all seriousness, you’re right: it’s very hard to venture forth from Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s irreverent, enduringly charming exploration of sexual development and relationships into more of a plot-driven story. Sex Criminals has begun to pull that warm, fuzzy blanket off and expose us to an unknown world beyond. Can’t we just keep enjoying these fun characters and their adorable, dildo-in-the-face romance for a little while longer? Five more minutes!

At its heart, this issue is about the realization that sex, no matter how fun it can be in the moment, inevitably has consequences; something we are beginning to understand in a shockingly real way compared to the tone of rest of the series. It isn’t a coincidence that the story of Rachel’s college rape is juxtaposed with Suzie and Jon’s pushing their own limits as their bank-robbing plot escalates. The ability to have sex, much like the uncanny ability to freeze time via orgasm, is a heavy responsibility. Misuse the privilege it affords you and people will get hurt.  Suzie naïvely hopes that her actions haven’t led to anyone being fired but deep down she knows they likely have. Just as Geoff the jock inevitably was punished for his sexual transgression, now Suzie and Jon face their own punishment for their irresponsible behavior.

THESE ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SEX

I suppose after three issues almost exclusively dealing in the “Sex” aspect of the series, we should have known that the “Criminals” aspect wasn’t far behind it. To the series’ credit, our reluctance with this apparent tonal shift speaks volumes towards the characters Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have so intimately fleshed-out (heh) over these past few months.

The increased role of Kegelface and her cronies is inherently threatening I think because the romance between Suzie and Jon has the potential to be diminished as the series expands in scope. We root for Suzie and Jon. We want them to have a happy ending. I suppose if they have to have an adventure to get there, then we’re along for the ride.

A dick (sort of)

And so as we begin to cross the threshold, I think we have a lot to look forward to. Kegelface is a particularly interesting prospect.  The small look into her personal life is gives us a fresh perspective that will hopefully result in us learning her own sexual past and hang-ups. Perhaps some butt stuff. And of course “Crabby Cat Dildoes” are always a great investment.

Kyle is an aspiring television and sketch comedy writer who can quote classic Simpsons like nobody’s business. Oh wait, you want something unique about him? Oh…  Well, he’s really pale (your move, ladies). He lives in Los Angeles where he’s constantly planning for next Friday night. You should buy him a beer.

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?

2 comments on “Sex Criminals 4

  1. This issue also marks the first time I was distracted by the Annie Hall-esque affect of Suzie stopping the scene so she can address the audience. Normally, she’s commenting on it in a way that feels true to the moment, but this issue found her explaining stuff she wasn’t present for. Moreover, she offers the explanation as what she imagines Kegelface’s life to be, which manages to emphasize her subjectivity while also kind of ignoring it. Did this stick out to anyone else?

    • I did notice that she was breaking the 4th wall again (hadn’t had that since issue 1 if memory serves?) but I can’t say I was thrown off by it much.

      Aside from that, I feel much like you about this issue; it’s good but I missed the innocent fun of the first 3 issues. I think that’s one of the dangers when you really fall in love with a particular story or aspect of a book; if it stays the same it stagnates but if it changes there’s a chance you’ll be dissapointed. It’s kind of like how I feel about Batman after Court of Owls/DotF, I loved those stories so much that although what’s happening now is good, I can’t help but compare it and feel like the new material is lacking a little something.

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