This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
[He] felt he had to choose between being a failure and being a fake
Because going against our natural inclinations can make us feel like impostors, we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable.
Herminia Ibarra, The Authenticity Paradox
“Authenticity” is a big, nebulous word. I normally encounter the concept in the realm of art — whether it be performance or otherwise — as an indicator of a work’s sincerity or the artist’s commitment to an original, unique vision, but there’s no rubric or scale to truly measure these values. The same can be said about authenticity in one’s personal life. How can one accurately and honestly gauge whether their actions or behaviors come from one’s natural, earnest inclinations when any given person, on their journey through life, undergoes so much change due to a litany of reasons? At what point can the quest for authenticity become a detriment to further development instead of being a welcome pillar of deeply-held tenants? Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals 23 reads as a very busy issue, featuring an array of close-ups on the characters of the series, and these moments succeed in showing the struggle for authenticity, though these moments occur within a messy-feeling broader plot. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
At the risk of sounding dramatic, cliche, or platitudinous: sometimes love is not enough to save a relationship. So many things go into successfully balancing the scale of a happy, healthy long-term romantic relationship, and while love is certainly important, it is certainly not the only factor. This is were we see Jon and Suzie in Sex Criminals 20 — at a crossroads, loving each other dearly, but unable to continue as a couple. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Sex Criminals 18, originally released April 19, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
There is no intimacy without vulnerability.
Ryan: I try to be a very honest person. I’m essentially George Washington with the cherry tree. Though, of course, I have to caveat that with admitting that I know the cherry tree thing is a myth. Sometimes facts are the enemies of fun. While I am truthful and people in my life find that both helpful and annoying, there is a deeper truth. I started this paragraph intending to say something and we are now at about seventy seven words, so I’ll come out with it. Vulnerability is something I struggle with every day. It’s not enough to refrain from lies, be nice to people, make sure that they are okay and carry on. You aren’t really present in a relationship until you are being truly honest about what you need, sharing your moments of shame, and peeling back the surface to reveal the parts of yourself that you aren’t sure will be accepted. In Sex Criminals 18, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky explore the struggle to be emotionally honest.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Sex Criminals 16, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy’s Sex Criminals plays with some very big, very difficult ideas. The thematic engine of this series spits out hard questions about identity, sexuality, morality and mental health, but it runs on moment-to-moment action. I’m talking about “action” in the basest sense — Jon and Suzie may have the power to stop time and rob banks, but no one is tuning in for that spectacle. I mean “action” like how we follow one statement from the speaker to its audience, tracking the psychological cause and effect in every second of the interaction. That’s what allows Fraction and Zdarksy to find the drama in Jon repeating “I don’t know how to do this.” His is a prison of inaction, of apathy. In highlighting the action that doesn’t really seem like action, Fraction and Zdarsky drastically alter the speed and intimacy of the story they’re telling. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan M. and Ryan D. are discussing Sex Criminals 14, originally released February 17th, 2016.
Ryan M.: Anyone can be charming at a dinner party. A sense of gaiety and a few well-placed bon mots, and you’re a hit! But dinner parties are not where deep connections are forged. That happens when you see beyond the public facade and get a deeper understanding of what a person is like when they don’t have anything clever to say. When they are struggling to articulate their ideas, but trust you enough to listen anyway. In Sex Criminals 14, writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky offer up that kind of vulnerability even as their characters struggle with it. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Sex Criminals 12, originally released September 16th, 2015.
Drew: Human beings find meaning in things. It makes sense as a survival mechanism — recognizing patterns or hypothesizing causal links can lead us towards food or away from danger — but it’s also not something we can turn off. A friend of mine once pointed out that you can fill one of those logical analogies (you know, “puppy is to dog as kitten is to cat”) with four totally random words and it will still make some kind of sense — that is, we can find meaning in connections that are literally drawn out of a hat. To me, that means that “meaning” doesn’t necessarily have objective basis in reality — it’s a thing that we construct because that’s what our brains do. This has some rather profound existential consequences, but for the purposes of our discussion of Sex Criminals 12, I want to focus on what it means for the characters, as this issue finds them each extrapolating meaning that might not be there. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Sex Criminals 11, originally released June 29th, 2015.
Drew: I’ve played the “what superpower would you want” game enough to know that most people will settle for “flight” or “invisibility.” Does that predictability speak to the overwhelming awesomeness of those powers, or some failure of those individuals to be creative? I think it might actually speak to how we think about superpowers: they’re so arbitrary as to be kind of meaningless. Indeed, there are relatively few characters whose powersets are actually limited to just “flight” or “invisibility,” giving even those most popular choices the air of not quite being enough. Which is why Sex Criminals is such a revelation. “A series about a couple with the ability to stop time” doesn’t get nearly the reaction as “A series about a couple with the ability to stop time when they orgasm.” Part of the charm is the novelty, sure, but the premise requires that sexuality play a central role in the series. That makes it unique beyond its superpowers, as issue 11 takes us into the private lives of virtually every character via their sex lives. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Sex Criminals 10, originally released January 28th, 2015.
Patrick: I think we’re slowly starting to emerge on the other side of the age of the anti-hero: when your Tony Sopranos and Walter Whites and Don Drapers were the coolest guys on TV. If there’s one thing these guys all have in common — other than your suspicion that you couldn’t be friends with them in real life — it’s that they all know what they want. The means and methods by which they achieve their goals can be questionable, but as long as they continue to express an honest desire, the audience never goes away. It’s strong, and somehow morally correct. Even when their worlds are crashing down around them, we have faith in the anti-hero’s unwavering need to get what they want. So where does that leave us with characters that don’t know or can’t articulate what they want? That’s a relatable trait, probably more relatable than any of us would like to admit. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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.] Continue reading →