Taking the word graphic one step further in ‘graphic novel’ is this book, Sex Criminals, Vol.1, which combines the first five issues of the Sex Criminals comic book.
Comics aren’t just for kids any more, folks!
This story follows a young woman, who is narrating the tale, as she discovers sex. She starts with the death of her father, the emotional and mental abandonment from her mother, and the surprise sexual feelings while taking a hot bath. From that point on she is on a journey of discovering, wanting to learn more about her sexual feelings. She has discovered that all time stops when she is in the throes of sexual ecstasy.
The girl, Suzie, goes on with life, assuming her ability to stop time via sex, is her unique ability, until she meets Jon, who has the same ability. Jon uses his time-stopping-talent for personal redemption and gain: he leaves his excrement in his boss’s potted plant, and jerks off to porn in a local porn shop. Jon convinces Suzie to take advantage of their joint ability to stop time in order to steal money from a local bank, in order to save the local library (where Suzie works). Unknown to Suzie and Jon, there are others with the same time-stopping-sex ability, and some act as Sex Cops to put a stop to just what Suzie and Jon have planned — after all, how can you have ‘sex criminals’ without sex police?
The sex isn’t as graphic, say, as a Hustler cartoon, but there is nudity and there is copulation, but mostly there is a lot of swirly streams of color representing time-stopping-ecstasy. The art is just fine. It’s not über-realistic, but it’s not manga or even flat cartoon-y either.
I found the concept very interesting, and the format moderately unique. Having Suzie speak directly to the reader, relating the story in narrative form (‘breaking the fourth wall’ for all of us theatre geeks) is something I haven’t seen too often in comics/graphic novels. I enjoyed seeing the older, narrator Suzie in the same panel with young Suzie (or as a nurse at the gynecologists office). It definitely put the book in a different world.
And I liked Suzie. I liked her drive. Her desire to learn more, when finding a teacher is all but impossible. Whether about sex, or to save the library, she’s a go-getter.
But I didn’t like Jon. His tendency toward the criminal made me uncomfortable. At times he seemed genuine and almost as driven as Suzie, but then he’d go too far and I’d be uncomfortable and I couldn’t understand why Suzie would stick with him. We do learn, much later, that Jon needs to be medicated and that he doesn’t always take his medication. This doesn’t make me like him any more, but it doesn make me more uncomfortable to read about him (I know too many people like this).
There are some interesting sub-plot story lines that are unresolved at the end of this graphic novel (the first five issues of the Sex Criminals comic book), and I am interested in seeing where the story goes. And that it is Suzie who is narrating, I am holding out hope that Jon won’t be around too long.
Looking for a good book? This adult-oriented graphic novel has some very interesting ideas, but you have to put up with some un-likeable characters to follow it.
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Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick
author: Matt Fraction
artist: Chip Zdarsky
publisher: Image Comics
paperback, 128 pages