Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's highly anticipated new book from Image hits your local comic book shop's shelves today and we took an early look. Here's the spoiler-free scoop: First issues are hard. I think we can all agree on that. There's a lot of exposition to get through and in this case, with the already publicized premise for the series, it needed to be gotten through quickly. No one is going to read three issues of backstory when they've already been told there's sex and crime to be done. Fraction's love of the first-person narrator helps this along and the exposition moves at a reasonable if not chronological pace (though in a book about time-stopping orgasms I suppose chronological jumps are fair play). In tones reminiscent of his Hawkeye run, the book starts in the present with our "heroes" in some dire situation, then quickly moves into the past to show us how we got there. Sort of. It's not a literal explanation but it doesn't need to be.
The strength of this issue IS the exposition, which would normally be a weird thing to say. But even though it's a great premise, action alone wouldn't be enough to sustain a full series. At a certain point it's just orgasms and explosions, you know? But this issue lays the groundwork for a really great emotional core to what's coming next. Our narrator is wry and charming and even though you can tell everything is about to go wrong, you're rooting for her from page one.
It's not all sob stories and sex though. There's plenty of levity including a series of pages in the middle of the book concerning the "facts of life" that are truly hysterical. All I can say is that Zdarsky's stick figure work is absolutely breathtaking.
Not that his traditional work isn't top-notch as well. His style here is just far enough off from completely realistic that the characters feel warm and real while still giving the whole thing an upbeat cartoony quality equal to the magical realism of the premise. His characters range of emotions from joy to rage to vinegar strokes (link NSFW) are a joy to read and his "still lifes" in the moments of stopped time are just gorgeous. His attention to detail, even in the background (a poster of a frog telling you "reading is sexy" was a particular favorite) will, I'm sure, only be an asset as the series continues.
Overall it was a strong first issue and I would highly recommend picking it up today. A sexy Bonnie meets sexy Clyde origin story with a deep emotional core, it has a lot of promise and I'm definitely interested to see where the story will go.
TL;DR: Time-stopping orgasms but with heart! A new series worth checking out.
Sex Criminals is a new series written by Matt Fraction with art by Chip Zdarsky. Published by Image Comics, you can pick it up in your local comic book shop today or purchase it digitally DRM free direct from Image.
A free review PDF of Sex Criminals #1 was obtained from Image Comics.
Oh, and as the back of the book says: