Sex Criminals #5 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
There comes a moment in every relationship where you have to face reality. The first days are full of giddy excitement, hormones raging and adrenaline surging. You have met someone you click with so easily, it’s just chemistry, there’s no other way to explain it. Sure he/she may not be perfect, but #### it, it’s not like you are. We all have flaws, but they’re irrelevant. What is important are all the ways in which you take delight in each other, cheer up each other and more or less improve your days. Nothing could be sweeter.
Or more vulnerable. Time is the true test of all relationships. Habits which might be endearing one day, seem oh-so-grating the next. The stress of work intervenes; family drama elbows for attention. The successful romances are the ones which find a balance between all the push and pull of life. The rub, of course, is figuring out how that is done.
With this week’s issue of Sex Criminals, Fraction not only draws a curtain on the series’ first arc, but on the initial stage of Suzie and Jon’s romance. Readers witnessed their meeting at a house party in #1. She talked of her love of books, he courted her by quoting from Lolita. Naturally they ended up in bed together. The next day was spent talking endlessly with each other, savoring that sensation of “maybe this is the one who finally gets me.” In Suzie’s and Jon’s case, there is a piece of truth to this: all their lives they had assumed that they had been alone in their ability to experience time literally stop after sex. They were a fun couple to watch as they clowned around with each other. I cannot imagine a better use of “Big Bottom Girls” than Suzie’s dance scene in a pool hall. Good times.
Then, they go and rob a bank. Not in order to enrich themselves, but to pay off the mortgage on Suzie’s beloved library before self-same bank forecloses on it. As with all heists, there are mis-steps. Then the (sex) police show up. Suddenly life is not so carefree anymore.
This by itself would have made an interesting gloss on relationships, but Fraction goes deeper. What has made this series stand out from the very beginning is how grounded it is in fully developed characters. Strip away the fantastic elements and you have two protagonists who are instantly recognizable. The first two issues were, at their core, about a woman and man recalling how they discovered and explored their budding sexuality. We might not be able to stop time through sex, but all of us can remember what it felt like to be teenagers and a little confused/overwhelmed about how this whole sexuality thing worked.
In this week’s issue, Fraction intermixes the scenes after the attempted robbery with flashbacks, in particular a confession from Jon. Suzie had caught Jon engaging in some rather, well, asocial behavior and wanted an explanation. So, Jon, in the spirit of being honest with your partner, admits to having been diagnosed with both ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He tells her how he used to take medication, but found that it made him too blah. So he dropped the meds. He insists that he can maintain his balance, that he has the skills and therapeutic training to do this. Naturally, though, all of these disclosures give Suzie pause. I mean, Jon has had a tendency to act a bit irrational at times. In retrospect, Fraction has been dropping hints of it, which is the reason the revelation does not appear to come out of left field. It makes sense, really. And is worrying. As Suzie reads up on the disorder, you can see the pain in her face, her conflicted instincts fighting it out. Stay or should she go? Now that the initial flush excitement is gone, does she still like what she sees in the morning?
Fraction is treading into some potentially troublesome waters here. The idea that mental medication prevents us from being our “true” self is not a good message. Indeed, it can be a very harmful one. I have faith, however, that Fraction knows what he is doing. We have only seen the first stage of Suzie and Jon’s relationship; there is much more to come. What seemed like a good decision here, might seem less so several issues down the road. Jon would not be the first Fraction protagonist with a tendency for self-destructive behavior (cough, Tony Stark, cough).
I would be much amiss if I did not mention the first-class art from Chip Zdarsky. His illustrations give Sex Criminals its voice as much as Fraction’s words. This issue alternates from goofy bedroom banter to diner confessions to sequences within “the quiet.” In each he conveys the mood just right. Together, he and Fraction have created an outstanding final chapter to their first arc. I look forward to #6 and discovering how Suzie and Jon’s relationship does (or does not) adapt to their new circumstances.
Oh, and perhaps learning how Prince came to be among Suzie’s phone contacts?