After disappearing for almost two months (where the heck did it go?), Sex Criminals has returned once again and considering its track record, will probably disappear for another two months after this issue. Despite going MIA, Sex Criminals took home the prize for Best New Series in the Eisner Awards.
Although I don’t quite agree with that sentiment, a new issue is here. Is it good?
Sex Criminals #7 (Image Comics)
The comic is split into two halves. In the first half, Susie meets up with her friend Rach and tries to make amends after treating her like crap a couple of issues ago. The second half focuses on Jon as he tells a story from his high school days and what happened when he broke into that Sex Police woman’s house. Shenanigans ensue.
Look Susie, could you stop talking to the imaginary people you are staying at and focus more on talking to me?
Story-wise, one part of the comic is very good and the other parts… not so much. The scene with Susie reconnecting with her friend is very good and has a lot of solid characterization and emotion, which makes the characters a bit more relatable than I’ve found some to be in this series. Heck, it even makes Susie a bit more likeable considering she apologizes to/makes amends with her friend for her behavior (which is very nice since I really haven’t liked Susie, or Jon for that matter, much in this comic). Where the story takes a dive is in the second half with Jon’s stories.
The first story flashes back to when Jon was in high school and the lesson he learned from going into the “zone” while at school and the fallout from it. The main problem with it is that the story is just not that interesting, feels like padding, and most of all — feels like information we’ve already learned this before. Jon basically learns he could get away with anything he wants to while in the zone, but do we really need to know that after everything we have already seen him do or get away with? This doesn’t add anything new to the character or even the mythos. It’s frankly not that compelling and feels like its almost there just to pad out the comic so it gets to regular length.
The final portion of Jon’s story is him breaking into the woman’s house like we saw at the end of the previous issue. This part… honestly makes it really hard to like Jon as character. He really comes off as an asshole, though to the comic’s credit, he seems to acknowledge it as well during the situation. However, it doesn’t change the fact of whatever he was going to do and even when he finds out that the woman has files on all different kinds of people with this ability, it really doesn’t change anything. His behavior makes it really hard to sympathize with his character and honestly, seeing him in this comic, it makes a good case for the Sex Police existing and harassing people like him.
Oh good, time to play the Spongebob Ripped Your Pants song now.
The comic’s biggest strength, from my perspective, is the character work. While I maintain I have trouble sympathizing, caring, and definitely rooting for the two leads (this issue did change things a bit for me with Susie), it’d be foolish to deny that writer Matt Fraction does a good job of fleshing out the characters and their relationships with the others (and themselves). The writing and development really brings the characters to life, for better or for worse, and that’s what at least gives the book the edge over a lot of other series out there.
Where the comic’s biggest weakness is, again from my perspective, the humor itself. Going back to the idea that 40 Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids are the touchstones for Sex Criminals, the comic itself is really not as funny as any of them. The humor just falls flat so many times with jokes because they are not funny or poorly executed (pretty much all of Jon’s story). There’s obnoxious dialogue, repeating a joke over and over again until it’s not funny, the timing is poor (some of these jokes might work with actual acting or voice-over to convey tone and emotion), the gross-out humor not working at all, some jokes making no sense, etc. The comedy of this entire comic is not working remotely and is more equivalent to movies like Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star or Movie 43 if anything.
Sex Criminals‘ pacing is decent most of the time, the story flows relatively well and the ending is rather decent. Frankly, the dialogue and narration is really hit or miss here. Some of the time it’s fine and does help with the characterization; other times it’s rather annoying and obnoxious (pretty much mostly during Jon’s part of the book). Sometimes the book gets very heavy on the dialogue and narration, really slowing down the pacing of the book.
“Of all the muffins on all…” *facepalm* You got to be shitting me with that line.
The artwork by Chip Zdarsky is pretty much fine as with previous issues. The characters look fine and have a decent range of emotions (Except for Jon when he was in high school. He looks far younger than his actual age), the layouts are alright and stand out a bit more during the Susie’s story, and the coloring is appealing. Outside of a lot of bland and blank backgrounds in this comic, that’s pretty much it.
Is It Good?
Sex Criminals #7 is a mixed bag. There are certainly some positive aspects (characterization for sure), but there are also some bad parts that really sink the book. Jon is thoroughly becoming unlikeable, the storytelling was questionable, and the humor was forgettable at points.