Your favourite comic about time-stopping sex criminals is back from its 19-month hiatus for a final 7-issue arc called “Six Criminals.” Issue #26 is stuffed *wink* full of everything makes this series great: melancholy, introspection, childhood trauma, and roller rinks, of course!
Sex Criminals #26
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
29 January 2020
This issue has a tough job to do since issue #25 was published in June 2018; readers have had a lot of time to forget all the details of what was going on in the world of Sex Criminals. So Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have to remind us of where they left off and re-centre on the things that they, and we, love about the series. As well as providing direction for this, the final arc, by seeding *wink* the climax *wink wink* of the revenge plot against the Big Bad. They manage to juggle this exposition relatively smoothly, all while framing it with some A+ introspection and ending on a cliffhanger.
They accomplish this by jumping between scenes of the extended group of “People with Sex Powers” (former alias “Sex Police”) hatching plans, Suze and Jon together in bed, and Suze and Dave the therapist at a roller rink. Woven through these scenes are two threads. One is a phone call between Jon and Suze, and the other is a series of disjointed flashes that Suze gets involving things going badly with the villain, Badal, and her being at fault.
Overall the focus of Sex Criminals #26 is not on some hare-brained scheme to take down Badal, Head of BankCorp. Although it is introduced early on that the only way to take down an all-reaching mega-corporation is to destroy the man himself, directly and personally. Which raises the eternal conundrum, is harm to one person worth it to prevent the suffering of many?
Instead, the majority of the issue focuses on Suze and Jon, together once more. Since their relationship was the main tenet of the series, the reason so many people got sucked *wink wink* in, it makes sense for this final arc to bring us back to basics. To spend time with them.
The art, as usual with this team, is gorgeous. Zdarsky makes a 16-panel page look easy and utilises it perfectly to slide between *wink* fragments of time. The mirroring of poses and layouts as they move between the scenes, Jon and Suze’s phone call, and flashbacks to Suze’s childhood are subtle but spot on. They help to subconsciously connect all these moments. In one panel Suze’s stance matches her mother’s from the previous panel; reminding every woman of her biggest fear — turning into her mother. Thanks, guys, I was just trying to enjoy a fun comic about sex and crime and you had to drag me into an existential crisis…again.
The flow of this issue reads how the brain works: linking one thing to another in sometimes tenuous ways, returning to the original idea, penetrated *wink wink* by jarring thoughts. In this way, the story and the art are representatives of Suze’s mental state: surrounded by people, but feeling isolated, with her thoughts going in circles.
One of the things that Suze is struggling with during her conversations is feeling traumatized whilst believing that nothing big enough has happened to count as (capital T) trauma — no war or violence or attack of any kind. When her dad died tragically, she had a childhood of having her feelings diminished by her mother, even if it was in the name of not dwelling on sad things. And this sort of chin-up mentality of denying negative emotions favoured by older generations does not save children from feeling them, but rather teaches them that these feelings are not valid. And Suze’s struggle over feeling unjustified in feeling trauma is nothing if not relatable. Who hasn’t felt that since other people have had bigger or “worse” problems, what gives me the right to feel traumatised by passive-aggressive comments made by my mum?
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Fraction and Zdarsky remind us that the striving for everything to be okay is what drives most of us to keep going. They potentially tease *wink* an eventual happy ending *wink wink* for the book with this line: “Everything is gonna be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay — it’s not the end.”