For the longest time you thought you were alone. The sole occupant of a realm where everything has stopped. Until the day you discover another. Two people, whose ability to cease the flow of time is activated by sexual intercourse. What do you do with this power? Rob banks, obviously.
Sex Criminals: Volume One follows the story of Suzie and Jon, two people who can enter a state called The Quiet after sexual intercourse. Believing they are the only one with this ability, until they meet each other, a blossoming romance soon escalates into a crime spree across the city. They are soon shocked to learn that it isn’t just them in The Quiet. There are others, and they are watching.
With a title like Sex Criminals, of course, sex and sexuality play a big part in the book. It isn’t done in a tacky way though, instead used to illustrate Suzie and Jon’s initial individual isolation, and then growing love when they discover each other. The book is mildly titillating, with infrequent nudity and sex scenes. However other sexual imagery, like sex toys and the trappings of the porn industry, make much more frequent appearances.
The sexual aspect is only one part of the story. It focuses equally as much on other themes like love, friendship, tragedy and absolution. This means that it doesn’t just come across as a one-note story. Character motivations are progressively revealed, giving each a layer of personality while also providing the reader with a better understanding on the actions they have taken.
Writer Matt Fraction has done a fantastic job of crafting both world and characters. Readers will come to, if not empathise with Suzie and Jon, at least understand the reasons they have for taking things into their own hands. Matt has made the pairs quick romance, and descent into robbery, feel completely natural.
Illustrator Chip Zdarsky has also done a terrific job. The illustrations complement the writing and tone amazingly. Figures and backgrounds are quite simply done, but together they create a lot of detail which brings the world to life. The drawings have a feel to them which evokes a sense of innocence while not losing any of the edge that the story demands.
It looks like Matt and Chip had fun with the book, going by all the signs and posters throughout it. Each page is peppered with tiny, completely miss-able quips about various aspects of advertising and society in general.
Due to some of the themes this book isn’t going to be for everyone. If you find content which is even mildly sexual uncomfortable then you will want to give Sex Criminals a miss. Certain parts of the book may be extremely confronting in this regard. However the story is engaging enough that flipping through the book and assessing if you could handle it is certainly recommended.
A lot of hard work and attention to detail has gone into Sex Criminals: Volume One. And it shows, as the book is an excellent read, with interesting characters and an original premise. The story of Suzie and Jon will capture your imagination, and prove that stories which deal in sexual themes aren’t by association terrible or smutty.
Words by Matthew Lee.