Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Sex Criminals 9, originally released December 10th, 2014.
Ryan: Sex Criminals 9 begins with an entwicklungsroman of sorts, chronicling the development of the young woman who grows into Jon’s favorite adult actress, Jazmine St. Cocaine. It begins, like all good stories, with an inciting incident: a playground accident — seeming perpetrated by the subtly blood-speckled see-saw — leaves Rae Anne Toots with nerve damage on her clitoris and thus insensitive to that particular type of sexual stimulation. Despite this injury and the high school promiscuity (her intimation, not mine — judgment-free column here) she partially attributes to it, Ana graduates top of her class with her sights set on university. Unfortunately, her father can/will not help her with the financial strings attached, and she eventually finds that supporting herself by working forty hours plus to afford college is for suckers.
One fun trip to the “gentleman’s club” later, in conjunction with some pretty sound mathematical financial calculations, Rae Anne shifts her profession to exotic dancer, adopting the pseudonym of Jazmine, while rediscovering her love of cocaine. And she genuinely enjoys it, deferring her entry to college for another year. I particularly enjoy how candid, self-aware, and shameless her tone is (kudos to the writer, Matt Fraction), especially as she transitions from stripping to nude modeling through the connection she makes with a guy who looks a surprising amount like Mark Hamill:
We cut to our main protagonists, Suzie and Jon, staring at the map of other people with the ability to enter The Quiet, filched from the Sex Police. However, not all is right in paradise as the last issue showed: the “couple” had split, Suzie was set to go on a date with Robert Fucking Rainbow, and Jon fell into a dangerous self-medicating pattern. Sex Criminals 9 does not fail to acknowledge these issues, as an argument drenched in displaced vitriol erupts:
Fraction captures perfectly that beautiful escalation which many of us have experienced in a fight, wherein we say the most wretched things possible to someone we care about deeply, self-aware of our transgressions as they happen and completely unable or unwilling to arrest the negative momentum. The black panels encapsulate the voice of reason perfectly throughout the obvious sentient displacement occurring between Suzie and Jon, and reading this sequence felt like slipping on an old, worn glove. The rest of the scene plays out, vacillating across the emotional spectrum from contempt to tenderness, and leads to the two taking comfort in each other, as seen in an entire stunning page of eroticism. If this page does not prove that artist Chip Zdarsky is good for more than the incredible in-jokes peppered into almost every scene, nothing will. Zdarsky’s adept portrayal of the character’s expressions during the argument and beyond reads as nuanced and emotive as always.
After their post-coital trip to the ruins of the recently destroyed library, Suzie reveals to Jon that she has a plan, one designed to rally troops who share their particular ability on the offensive against the Sex Police. Before we get to the actualization of this plan, we rejoin Rae Anne’s story on the set of her first porn: a parody of the Gillen/McKelvie comic, The Wicked + The Divine. On this set, mid-scene, “Jazmine” attains her first climax, and with it comes the transcendental experience of entering The Quiet. This phenomenon continues over her career in the adult film industry, and her fascination with this new marvel reignites her interest in academia and lets her shed her dependency on the ol’ Bolivian Marching Powder (cocaine has funny nicknames).
Back in school, she ascends the ranks until she finds herself teaching as Dr. Ana Kincaid, a professor of horology. Interestingly enough, a cursory search of this discipline reveals that it is mostly concerned with things which measure time (watches, sundials, etc.), though her white board research seems more geared to theoretical physics (i.e. Einstein’s special relativity) and/or philosophy of time (ontologically, maybe):
Semantics aside, the three unite for the first time, setting up the potential for the readers and protagonists alike to discover some incredible things about The Quiet and use this information against the nefarious Sex Police. Also of note in this scene- when Suzie, standoffish around Dr. Kincaid, Jon’s long-term object of lust, introduces herself protectively as Jon’s girlfriend.
Ultimately, this series’ ability to deftly handle difficult subjects in a non-shaming manner without losing perspective on their intricacies shines once again, while also moving the plot along with the promise of some pertinent new developments. This, in conjunction with what many may argue is the best “mailbag” section in any comic, makes this a must-read title. Drew, with such consistent quality, what surprised you about SexCrims9? How do you think this series, which thus far builds primarily on individual narratives-cum-confessions, will translate to a potentially larger cast of characters? Oh, and should we get Spencer, who has been covering Wicked + Divine to comment upon the crossover porn scene?
Drew: Heck, let’s see if we can get Gillen to comment on it — he’s featured almost as much as Daniel Day Screwits, the big purple dildo.
I’m intrigued by your question regarding the expanding cast. The last two issues have focused on the respective sexual confessions of Robert and Jazmine, which has necessarily taken the focus off of our central couple. For any other series, that might be a problem, but I would argue that the confessional nature of this series might be more central to its identity than even its protagonists. I lamented that focus when it first deviated from Jon and Suzie back in issue four, but I’ve come to see it as one of this title’s biggest strengths. I mean, between the two of them Jon and Suzie can only have so many embarrassing/fascinating sex stories, so the only real way to keep that tone going is to bring in some new characters.
And Jazmine is quite the character. She’s intelligent and pragmatic in a way that we tend not to associate with strippers, models, or porn stars, and while the stripper putting herself through law school has kind of become a stereotype itself, it was still a refreshing alternative to the “damaged” narrative Jazmine dismisses out of hand. Still, a part of me feels like it’s a little convenient that there’s nothing in Jazmine’s story for anyone to feel guilty about. As this series’ de facto representative of the porn industry, it seems almost irresponsable to make her totally in control and not exploited in any way. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t doubt that this narrative is roughly true for many women (and men) who have worked in porn, and I won’t begrudge Fraction and Zdarsky this character choice, I just think this issue might offer some misleading comfort that porn is victim-free.
Or maybe I’m totally off-base. I’ll very openly admit that my perceptions of the porn industry are almost entirely based on Boogie Nights, so they may be both fictionalized and outdated. I also trust this creative team to do their research, as they so aptly demonstrated in Robert’s little run-down of birth control methods in issue 8, so it’s entirely possible their narrative is more likely than the one that I have in my head. Then again, maybe my discomfort with the wholly pro-porn stance may have nothing to do with people being exploited (even if I can’t shake that notion), and may hinge more on the inherent objectification of porn. My inner post-modernist wants to point out how pornography literally turns people into objects — photographs and videos for our sexual pleasure — but I don’t think we really need to go there, porn isn’t really about the basic humanity of its performers, objectifying them in a way that would be downright horrific if it was a person you were talking with in a cafe. I’m still grappling with the morality of this, but I definitely think it’s more complicated than this series (or its letters page) would have us believe.
Putting those reservations aside, this was a powerful issue. Jazmine is an inspiring character, and as Ryan noted, that fight (and reconciliation) between Jon and Suzie is one of the most realistic I’ve ever seen. I’m also thrilled for the inevitable pseudo-scientific exposition dump that Dr. Kincaid and that whiteboard represent. Plus, we got that awesome page of porn parody titles! Who has a favorite? I think mine was “Brolita,” which only further confirmed Fraction’s obsession with Nobokov (or at least Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Lolita).
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?