Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sex Criminals, Vol. 3: Three the Hard Way by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Serial comics revel in complication -- they have to, or they'd end, and who wants that? (Certainly not the creators, who generally want to keep working and getting paid. And if audiences actually wanted endings from every-Wednesday comics I'd think they would have made that clear at some point in the last seventy years.)

So any series that starts out as "the real world, with this one little change" finds itself elaborating that change as it goes. Relentless story logic will do that, and the terror of yet more empty white pages to keep filling up. Sex Criminals was originally the story of two young people with a shared wild talent (freezing time when they orgasm) and a combined problem (the library she worked at was being foreclosed on by the bank he worked at). Hence Sex. Hence Criminals. (See my reviews of the first two volumes for more words saying the same thing.)

But are they the only ones with that power? (That seems deeply implausible.) Are there other sex-based superpowers? (Why not?) And, if there are sex criminals, does that imply that there are sex cops?

Sex Criminals, Vol. 3 continues that elaboration, as always written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Chip Zdarsky. There are now several other time-freezers, some of whom have additional sex-powers, and the series is also dipping into metafiction -- maybe just because it's the twenty-first century, and we do that all the time now.

And, yes, still the least plausible element of the story is that Jon and Suzie regularly fuck in uncomfortable or strange places to simultaneous orgasms in order to unleash their powers. Forget bank robbery; a very lucrative career as couples sex therapists lies before them if they can teach that to other people. But I suppose mutual masturbation, though easier to manage for nefarious time-stopping purposes, is less visually appealing and dramatic in a comic.

This is still not quite a superhero comic, though there's been a steady increase in the number of punches thrown and/or threatened as the issues pile up. I would not be surprised if we have two super-teams lining up against each other for a big battle, flush from sex, in volume five or so. All Wednesday comics aspire to the condition of superheroes, as I always say -- with apologies to Walter Pater.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Sex Criminals is getting looser and weirder and less focused. Jon and Suzie are still in the middle of the action (so to speak), but there are a number of possibly more-interesting characters circling around them, with mysterious motivations and plans. I'm not 100% convinced Fraction and Zdarsky have an overall plan for all of this: much of Sex Criminals reads like superhero-style let's-just-throw-in-one-more-complication-for-this-month-and-see-what-happens plotting. But it's still zippy and exciting, and I can forgive a lot in a comic that's more about fucking than fighting.

I don't know where Sex Criminals could possibly be going, but it's still a great ride -- though the metafiction, this early in a series's run, is a worrying sign. Metafiction can be deconstruction, like "The Coyote Gospel," but more often it's a sign of material getting away from its creators, like Steve Gerber with Howard the Duck.

(Oh, and Merry Christmas, by the way. This book has absolutely nothing to do with the holiday -- aside, maybe, from a vague shared interest in "joy" -- but it's what came up in order for today, so it's what I've got.)

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