There’s nothing more satisfying than going back to a comic and finding the issue where everything just clicks into place. The concept, the characters, the story, and the art just start working perfectly in tandem. For Sex Criminals, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s funny book about love, sex, depression, weird tentacle cum monsters, endless background dick jokes, and making fun of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie that one time, it was definitelyissue #3. The issue is tagged with the subtitle “My Sexual Errors and Misfortunes 2001 – Present,” but it’s more commonly known as the issue where Suzie sings ‘Fat Bottomed Girls.’
The issue cover, done in cyan to go with Zdarsky’s CMYK theme for the first arc, is the first issue where the protagonists Suzie and Jon are shown together. It makes sense because this is the first time they are seen working as a unit. Getting their backstories of how they found themselves in The Quiet out of the way, Suzie and Jon start working as a pair pretty much right away. After Jon tells Suzie the story of how he lost his virginity with Morrissey analog Esteban wailing in the background, the two end their “first date” with familiar awkward moments in a fledgling relationships.
The issue’s, and later the series’, greatest strength is how real the relationship between Suzie and Jon feels. The chemistry in the first issue was undeniable, but it’s the little things as they progress from a party hookup to the beginnings of an actual couple. The anxiety of waiting on a text. The little smiles at a few words on a phone. The absolute joy of feeling like just maybe this person gets you. One of the greatest strengths of Matt Fraction’s writing is how he manages to turn even the weirdest situations into the most human stories, and it shows through so hard in Sex Criminals #3. Jon and Suzie’s “alone together” moments in Cumworld (both the state of being and the shop) touch right to the soul about falling in love or at least in like a way not many other comics have achieved.
Of course, it would be remiss to not mention the issue’s centerpiece scene of Suzie singing ‘Fat Bottomed Girls.’ Even with the legal issues that kept Fraction and Zdarsky for using the lyrics, it’s hard to find fault in this scene. To have the moment where Jon realizes he’s falling for Suzie done as a choreographed musical number in a completely visual medium is a ballsy move, but Zdarsky’s gorgeous art with the color flatting assist from Becka Kinzie keep the flow of the scene perfectly as Suzie dances and sings around the pool hall dressed as what could be dubbed a “sexy Freddy Mercury” costume. The scene is through Jon’s eyes, but this scene dares the reader to not fall in love with Suzie as well as she drops all her cares to rock out to her jam. There’s also a wonderful honesty in the moments where Fraction breaks the fourth wall in the censoring captions over the lyrics. “We just keep throwing awesome-fuel on the hit-fire” seems to be the Team Sex Criminals story in one line even two years on between the constant bans from iOS and the month #11 was delayed due to the sketch covers.
The issue ends with Jon coming up with the idea that the entire comic’s premise was built on and a flash forward to just how wrong it goes. By the time the issue gets to there, it’s hard not to be invested in the heroes by then. What brings them to trying to pull off this heist and just how these two people who’ve been so alone become alone together. Everything clicks together and brings the series from a funny concept to a bizarre and honest love story complete with challenges.
It also includes so many terrible and amazing Barton Fink sex puns and the newly invented porn genre “Obamacore.” Sex Criminals is truly the hit fire that keeps on burning.