Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Sex Criminals 6, originally released June 18th, 2014.
Scott: Have you ever been surprised at your own emotional response to something? It happened to me last summer, when my grandfather died. It was unexpected, or at least as unexpected as the death of an 88 year old man could be. I was shocked and saddened by the news, but I was very aware that my reaction felt muted. I knew my grandfather very well and loved him dearly, so why wasn’t I more emotional? I started to wonder if I was incapable of truly grieving. It seemed like another step in a progression I had noticed in recent years, a general softening of my emotional responses, and the thought that I might be dead inside scared the crap out of me. A couple months ago, my entire family reunited for a memorial service and I was again surprised when, while speaking about my grandfather, I could hardly get through a sentence without bawling. Discovering that I was capable of such an emotional outpouring was a huge relief, as the thought of a lifetime of even-keeled reactions seemed dreadful. I realize I can’t always control how I will react to major life events, but I’m thankful that I can at least be comfortable with my emotions. As Sex Criminals 6 illustrates in painstaking detail, not everyone is so lucky.
Jon and Suzie have escaped the Sex Police and funneled enough money through the library to stave off foreclosure. Everything is fine… except not really. Not for Jon. After discovering the Cumpass — a device that can detect when and where anyone enters “Cumworld” — and getting another visit from Kegelface, Jon is growing paranoid. He stops eating and sleeping, and diagnoses himself with cancerAIDS. His ADHD is getting the better of him, so he decides to go back on his medication which, while easing his paranoia, makes him feel like a dickless ghost.
I only have second hand experience with the types of drugs Jon is taking, but from everything I know this sounds like a very accurate description of their effects. The cost of keeping your anxiety and paranoia in check is that the user ends up feeling like an emotionless shell of a person, while their libido all but vanishes. The worst feelings go away, but the best ones go with them. It’s a no-win situation for those with personality disorders like Jon’s — they can either feel scared and alone all the time, or feel nothing at all.
Fraction does an incredible job making Jon’s emotional struggle feel real. Last issue, Drew suggested that Jon’s failure to take responsibility for his actions and/or find a healthy way to deal with his behavioral issues indicates that he might not be a very good guy. This issue doesn’t exactly dispel that notion, but it does add a layer of complexity to Jon’s character that makes him somewhat more sympathetic and much harder to pin down. The topic of his ADHD has been broached in previous issues, but it hasn’t been on full display like it is here. Jon’s slow psychological unraveling during the issue’s first half is difficult to watch. To his credit, he recognizes he needs help before he lets his condition completely destroy his life. But when Jon chooses to go back on his meds, it isn’t a moment of relief. For him, it’s choosing the lesser of two evils; for us, it’s a reality check.
Could Jon have taken better care of himself and avoided this scenario altogether? Yes, absolutely. Given his bad experience with these drugs in the past, Jon could have sought out therapy or some alternative treatment before hitting rock bottom. But he wasn’t exactly thinking straight. In the end, it’s hard to imagine Jon correcting his course without some chemicals being involved. Jon’s problem is a universal one: he waited too long to deal with an issue, and the only options remaining are unpleasant ones. He only has himself to blame, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. It makes him human.
The rest of the issue sees Jon reduced to a husk of his former self — the “Ghost Jon” we’re introduced to at the start of the issue. Everything is going smoothly for Jon and Suzie, until the bank changes its mind and decides to foreclose on the library. Jon puts it all together — Kuber Badal, the richest man in Appletown, is also a member of the Sex Police, and he’s exacting petty revenge on Jon and Suzie. Turns out Jon still has one soft spot — Suzie — and this news jolts him back to life, prompting him to declare war on the Sex Police.
It’s a rousing and, actually, quite a sweet ending note. After a complete emotional beatdown of an issue, Fraction gives us one little glimmer of raw, enraged passion. Maybe it speaks to Drew’s point that it’s Jon’s propensity towards aggression that snaps him out of his emotionless state. Really, I don’t know if Jon was ever set up as a “good” guy. Pooping in your bosses plant once is immature, doing it everyday day is sociopathic. Plus, it was Jon who suggested robbing the bank in the first place, describing it as a “victimless” crime. Maybe Suzie is the real victim here. There are tons of red flags surrounding Jon. He and Suzie clearly care for each other, but that doesn’t mean he’s good for her. This issue shows that, medicated or not, Jon seeks out trouble. Suzie ought to know what she’s signing up for.
Shelby, what did you make of this issue? This title is billed as a comedy, but this is pretty bleak stuff. Nonetheless, the storytelling is masterful. Jon, despite his issues, makes for an honest and compelling narrator. He’s still likable, but do you trust him?
Shelby: I thought this issue was nothing short of beautiful. Poor Jon. Not only does he not care about anything anymore, he doesn’t even care that he doesn’t care. What a frightening existence. I don’t even know if I could blame him for his current state; I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a “stable medium” for him. He seems to only oscillate between extremes. He takes his meds until he gets so frustrated with not feeling anything (an understandable frustration) he goes completely off them, so that he spirals out of control until he has to go on all the drugs again. I pity him immensely.
As much as it pains me to admit it, Jon and Suzie are terrible for each other. Suzie’s biggest problem that isn’t actually a problem is her independence. She’s been a loner her whole life, and has adjusted to that state pretty well. So well, in fact, it’s easy for her to get completely wrapped up in what she’s doing and not notice that her boyfriend is slowly fading away. I don’t mean this as a negative for her at all; as a single woman who lives alone I completely identify with her. I mean it as a negative for their relationship. I think Jon needs someone a little less independent and a little more attentive to help him keep an even keel.
You asked a very interesting question, Scott: do I trust Jon? Observing this whole situation play out from the outside, I would have to say no. How could you trust someone whose own emotional state swings so wildly between points? I trust him to want to do the right thing, but I don’t think I can trust him to execute on it. But if I were in Suzie’s shoes? Even discounting his shared ability to enter the Quiet with her (and, discounted or no, this point carries a TON of weight) he’s that guy. That fucking guy. They have a blast together (when they’re not getting dildo-whipped for robbing a bank), and he does care for her immensely. So immensely, in fact, the thought of her in pain is the only thing that can stir him into action. I’m actually a little concerned with what that action might be. I mean, when he was off his meds, he thought robbing a bank would be a good idea. Now that he’s on his meds, with his attention focused on this one task at hand, I think he might actually be quite dangerous. I’m afraid that, whatever his plan is, the end result will be Suzie leaving. I can’t know for sure, but I think this story is going to be a heartbreaker.
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