Comics Review: “Sex Criminals, Volume I TP: One Weird Trick” by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

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It’s a story as old as civilization itself: A young woman who stops time when she has an orgasm meets a guy with the same thing. Brought together by the whims of circumstance, they fall for each other, and in the throes of a new relationship start robbing banks.

Think “Tristan and Isolde” filtered through Philip K. Dick and you’ve got half of the idea.

The other half is a smart and sex-positive take on the romantic comedy. Suzie (she’s the girl) acts as the narrator for the series, bringing the smutty shenanigans and the sci-fi to a personal level. What makes her and Jon (he’s the guy) so compelling as a romantic pair is the sheer amount of honesty between them. It’s downright refreshing to see adults talking so frankly and intimately about their sexual histories, not as an arousing enticement but as an intimate disclosure. Past partners, masturbatory habits, even musical preferences are shared between them and with us.

It’s a bold approach to sexual comedy, and some of the best work by Matt Fraction (he’s the writer). Largely known as a prominent writer for Marvel Comics, one of his strengths is playing around with multiple levels of plot and mood. He knows when to place a joke about fleshlights and when to spin out lines of near-poetry, as when Suzie describes her first experience with post-climax timelessness: “I was enveloped in silence and color.”

Equally balanced are the visuals of Chip Zdarsky (he’s the artist). There’s a comfortable realism to his portrayal of the leads, from their body language to how they comb their hair for work. Jon and Suzie have a lot of sex on the page, but it never comes off as the athletic posturing of porn stars. An editorial cartoonist for the National Post by day, he’s great at slipping in the occasional barrage of MAD-style background gags from the occasional background poster to the Easter egg-laden trip to the porn store.

Yet, even when Jon and Suzie are chasing each other around with “marital aids” in a time-frozen “adult bookstore,” Zdarsky conveys the underlying truth that these two people are absolutely nuts for each other.

And that’s the secret: no matter how madcap or mind-blowing things get, it never gets out of hand because it’s all happening to two people that you care about. Together Zdarsky and Fraction balance sexual satire and sci-fi crime capering with a story that’s as personal and engaging as a confessional memoir.

Also, they invented, like, forty new sex positions. FORTY. (Greg Baldino)

“Sex Criminals, Volume I TP: One Weird Trick”
By Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky
Image Comics, 128 pages, $9.95

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