‘Sex Criminals’ #12 is a random blend of feminist ideas and dick jokes

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Sex Criminals #12
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
Flats by Spencer Alonso
Published by Image Comics

In the past couple issues of Sex Criminals, writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky have gone away from the relationship between Jon and Susie to develop the surreal world of The Quiet (The place where people who can stop time when they have an orgasm in the series.) and its denizens from the nefarious Kegelface, who has been hunting Jon and Susie for the most of the series, to Douglas D. Douglas, who can create a tentacle sporting magical girl with his semen. Sex Criminals #12 truly runs the gamut tonally from the broad, crude, and occasionally laugh out loud comedy of Jon and Susie escaping from Douglas to an incredibly informative lecture about normality and abnormality framed in true and false ideas about female sexuality from Professor Kincaid, a porn star turned college professor and ally of Jon and Susie’s against the Sex Cops.

With the reveal of Douglas D. Douglas’ gross “sex super power”, he loses all semblance of the character arc he had last issue to become a punchline and give Jon and Susie something to do while Kegelface is investigating and Kincaid is teaching. Fraction gets to write some of the series’ wackiest dialogue yet, including “I am god’s own vagina cutie” among others while Zdarsky brings the stylized lines and bright eyes of shojo manga with a side of hentai to the world of Clowes-esque looking characters in the series. The scenes featuring Douglas, Jon, Susie, and the unnamed anime girl are frenetic and perverted, especially when the protagonists discover a human statue of penises in Douglas’ “erotic dungeon”. They also let Zdarsky turn in some of his most eye-popping colors of the series with the harsh whites and pinks of the anime tentacle girl encroaching upon the usual purple and pink of The Quiet and Jon and Susie’s skin tones showing just how surprising this character’s appearance and actions are even in a book like Sex Criminals.

On the other hand, there is Professor Kincaid’s lecture. Full of text blocks, her scenes lack the visual panache of theSexCriminals12_Preview_Page

Jon/Susie/Anime Girl chase sequence, but Zdarsky does deepen his lines and adds some big gestures to show how passionate Kincaid is about dismantling the “normal” and “abnormal” binary in sex imposed upon individuals by academics like Freud, society, and other factors. By the end of the issue, her thesis ends up being that sex, gender, and sexual identity are fluid and constantly evolving. This is a progressive and revolutionary idea, especially for a society that only recently allowed members of the same gender to marry each other. In the context of Sex Criminals as a series, it can act as a rallying cry for characters, like Jon and Susie, who want to enjoy their time in the Quiet and not be subject to the iron (more like bronze) rule of Kegelface. But what does it have to do with dicks flapping about, and characters creating semen in the shape of Sailor Moon analogues?

There is a real dissonance between the Kincaid scenes and Jon/Susie scenes in Sex Criminals in their ideas. If all expressions of consensual sexual behavior are okay, why are readers supposed to laugh at Douglas D. Douglas for his beyond aberrant behavior? The puzzle pieces don’t quite fit, and hopefully the next issue will remedy this is as Jon and Susie are set to have a nice, personal chat with Kincaid while hoping Douglas or the Sex Cops show up. It is also interesting that Douglas immediately becomes a foe to Jon and Susie even if energy projecting super powers in the Quiet is definitely against Kegelface’s standards.

At its best, Sex Criminals balances filthy humor, honest ideas about human sexuality, and heartfelt emotion. The first two are definitely there with Fraction’s writing for Anime Girl and Zdarsky’s ever solid sight gags along with Kincaid’s in-depth and authentic (She quotes actual academic sources.) lecture. The emotional element isn’t there though as Jon and Susie spend most of their time making dirty anime jokes and having a stilted conversation about superpowers that is more worldbuilding than relationship metaphor. Even Susie’s incredibly sympathetic gynecologist Robert Rainbow is stuck dreaming about a parade of phalluses, and his character arc is untouched. But two out of three ain’t bad, and there is still humor and interesting ideas galore even if they don’t mesh well in Sex Criminals #12




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