Sex Criminals #8Sex Criminals #8  Chip Zdarsky September 2014 Image Comics

Matt Fraction (W), Chip Zdarsky (A)
Image Comics

The last issue ended with Suzie, Jon, and Rach adrift in a sea of black, with Suzie and Jon’s crimes suddenly exposed for Rach to see. This issue takes place a little bit later, so we aren’t shown what happened immediately after the end of the last issue, but can slowly piece it together. Suzie and Jon have decided to take a break. So naturally #8 begins with a visit to Suzie’s gynecologist’s office, and we meet Robert Rainbow in the kind of montage that should be plastered on the wall of every school’s health classroom.

Sex Criminals #8  Chip Zdarsky September 2014 Image Comics

Bow chicka bow wow.

Where was I? Ah yes. This very matter-of-fact conversation is wonderful, and yet another example of this comic’s excellent handling of complicated issues. I wish my conversations with my lady parts doctors would go so smoothly and without judgment, but I’m also glad I’ve never fantasized about the doctor while they’ve checked my cervix. This may not be the most realistic portrayal of an annual gyn visit, but it works nicely as a counterbalance to all the darkness in the last issue.

Since the comic had finally broken through my dislike of Jon in the last issue, I was a little disappointed to read about Suzie asking Robert out — while still cheering for her. I totally bought into the narrative of Suzie moving on, though. Yeah, the Quiet aside, maybe they aren’t meant to be. Suzie went to the doctor to resolve her issues with birth control pills, and left with a date. In the middle, she was a guinea pig for a bunch of medical students. That’s one hell of a day.

But then bad penny Jon shows up in the middle of Suzie’s coffee date with Robert, and he reveals that he not only knows Robert, but we switch pov to find out what he’s been doing while he and Suzie were taking their break. After pulling a little Jon wackery like screaming in the middle of a mall food court after finding out that his therapist has been doodling during his sessions instead of listening, Jon finds a new counselor right there, eating fries. The new therapist will take no bullshit from Jon and prescribes him some common sense advice, which is why Jon was jogging when he runs into Suzie and Robert.

It turns out that Robert and Jon used to be friends, but there was a fateful Halloween incident, complete with Kiss makeup, where Robert avoided a beating that landed square on Jon’s shoulders. It isn’t Robert’s fault, but somewhere in Jon’s twisty brain he’s decided a true friend would have been getting beat down right next to him.

Robert was too busy dealing with his own introduction to sex to worry about his friends that night, though. He walked in on his parents having sex in a scene that’s been lampooned over and over, but with a twist — his parents are engaging in some consensual BDSM. His father quickly disengages and has a heart-to-heart with his son in order to help him put what he’d seen into perspective, and Robert has a run-in with his brother’s girlfriend over his Halloween costume that causes him to back out of hanging with his friends. But let’s look at the scene with the parents for a moment.

Sex Criminals #8  Chip Zdarsky September 2014 Image Comics

The father, wearing a ball gag, nipple clamps, and a spiked collar, is bent over the marital bed. The mother is standing behind him, holding a leash as she spanks the father with a studded leather paddle. So not quite the usual walking-in-on-parents scene. The fragmented view highlights this, mimicking Robert’s gaze as he tries to figure out where to look. His mother’s breasts are bare, but it’s the father’s upturned buttocks that get highlighted.

Would this scene work in reverse? How much would it have affected Robert’s state of mind if his mother had been the one bound and gagged while his father was handing out the punishment? While it’s possible to draw a scene like that and not have it appear misogynistic, positioning the father as the submissive partner also challenges assumptions about masculinity, tropes about African American masculinity in particular, consensual sex, and how to talk to your kid about it. Robert’s father seems to handle that last part particular well, except for leaving on his collar during the world’s most uncomfortable sex talk.

Back in real time, the trio run into Rach, and suddenly Suzie and Robert’s date has turned into a double. Jon and Suzie hold hands and smile at each other while Rach plots dinner, but nothing is concrete, and it isn’t clear if Jon and Suzie are back together or what that means for Suzie and Robert. Then everything is brought to a screeching halt as the group runs into Kegelface and crew — in the middle of tearing down Suzie’s library. The look on Suzie’s face is heartbreaking, Jon appears horrified, and I hope someone wipes that cruel smirk off of Kegelface in the next issue.