Saturday, 30 April 2016

Sex Criminals, Volume 3: Three the Hard Way Review (Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky)

The third volume of Sex Crimz sees Matt Fraction have some kind of breakdown in the middle of the book – literally, as he writes himself into it having a convo with Chip Zdarsky - as he basically gets bored writing the series. What else happens? Jon and Suzie are being pursued by Kegelface and her cronies - still - with zero progression, and a lot of tiny, totally boring developments occur: Ana and Suzie don’t get along! Robert Rainbow’s intimidated by Rachelle’s sexual experiences! Kegelface is banging Jon’s shrink to get info on Jon! Yikes, that’s the best Fraction can muster? 

Looks like Sex Crimz is going the route of Chew. Chew once had an actual storyline and then as it went on each book became about new weird foodie powers only; in Sex Crimz, it’s now all about the new sex powers. Meet an orderly whose sperm takes the form of a sentient anime character and an asexual businesswoman who can jump off tall buildings and produces some kind of force field that keeps her from going splat...? I suppose they’re kinda interesting, the guys introducing more colours of the sexual rainbow but their intros do slow down an already glacial-paced narrative even further. 

There’s an overly long dreary lecture from Ana Kincaid on what’s “normal” that’ll put you to sleep; Suzie’s set up small stands - “mini libraries” - around the city filled with the books from her former library, a twee concept that feels like it would only work in a city like Portland, where Fraction happens to live; and Jon says “I love you” to Suzie - cue dramatic nonsense! Really? Since when did Sex Crimz get Friends-level sitcom bad? Oh, since now. Dear me. 

The meta stuff was novel at first but now it feels like Fraction irritably getting out of boring corners he keeps writing himself into. A scene where a character goes to a grocery store is just white text on black background explaining how tedious and unnecessary the scene is and let’s just move on - so why even have that scene in the first place? He uses this device again to get out of all the exposition needed to get Jon’s shrink up to speed on what’s happening in a scene. I get the convenience of it but it still makes the book feel lazy and tossed off. 

What annoyed me was the scene where Ana and Suzie confronted each other on their mutual dislike. I understand going all meta to get out of writing redundant dialogue, especially when this contrived antagonism is such a snoozefest, but why even have Ana dislike Suzie at all if you can’t be bothered to write the conflict in the first place? The theme of the book is supposedly about morality and who’s in the wrong but this key scene exploring this theme is blanked out with Fraction appearing in the comic going full-neurotic to Zdarsky on the phone instead. It comes across as pointless and self-sabotaging. Breaking the fourth wall was fun for the Queen sequence in the first book but this time around it feels like Fraction’s becoming more frustrated with the series rather than having fun with it. The frustration shows when Suzie decides she doesn’t want to be a sex criminal anymore… which is kinda the whole point of the series!

Three the Hard Way sees Sex Criminals take an unfortunate turn for the dull. I still like the characters, the concept and the art, I just wish there’d been a story in this one rather than a load of directionless nothing. Kurtis Wiebe announced the weekend before last that Rat Queens was going on hiatus for the foreseeable future - maybe Sex Crimz should do the same until Fraction’s figured out what he wants from the series?

Sex Criminals, Volume 3: Three the Hard Way

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