Comics You Should Be Reading: Sex Criminals

Today, my head is full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff: I’ve been reading lots of Sex Criminals lately, as well as a fair few novels with complex timelines. And I thought, perhaps, I should say a thing or two Sex Criminals over here where we like to talk about comics and wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey things and stuff.

sexcriminals1The series, which is written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, is just shy of two years old–its first issue was published on September 25, 2013. It was named Best Comic by Time in 2013, and it was nominated for two Eisner Awards last year.

The story is predominantly about Jon, an actor whose day-job is banking, and Suzee, a librarian. The two meet at a party, go home with one another, and have some sexy times. But Jon and Suzie are different from other people–when they achieve orgasm, they freeze time. And they’re apparently not alone.

In the first story arc (issues 1-5), Jon and Suzie find one another, and the two decide to use their powers to team up and save the library where Suzie works. They decide to rob the bank where Jon works, and perhaps a few others, to get the money Suzie needs to keep the bank from repossessing the building and knocking it down. But their activities get them noticed by the Sex Police, who are apparently a real thing in this universe.

The second story arc (issues 6-10) finds Jon and Suzie in a bit of a rut, quite removed from the chaos that ended the first story arc. We move backward to see how Jon and Suzie escaped and how Jon became a ghost of his former self and then forward to see how the couple deals with this kind of opposition. We also see more of the Sex Police and begin to get a sense of how many other people like Jon and Suzie are out there.

The third story arc is in its infancy, with only issue 11 published thus far, but it seems to be moving the characters from the first two story arcs together as Jon and Suzie search for other people like them using stole records from the Sex Police. Issue 12 drops on September 16.

So why should you be reading Sex Criminals?

  • It’s original. This is not another superhero story, even if there are superpowers and villains. I can’t even think of many things that it reminds me of—–and I’ve got no idea when the last time I could say that was.
  • It’s sex-positive. There are sex tips in most issues; the characters engage in various sex acts without a judgmental gaze from the narrator or illustrator. And that’s refreshing.
  • It’s funny and honest. Especially in the first few issues, as we see our protags go through puberty and learn about their abilities through first sexual encounters, the comic manages with incredible candor.
  • There’s going to be a TV series. In February 2015, Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick (fellow comics collaborator and wife) signed a two-year deal to develop the show with Universal TV.
  • Zdarsky can render expressions beautifully. And his art is an incredible addition to the series’ story-lines.

That said, the series could certainly use some more diversity. There are precious few sexcriminals2non-CIS, non-white, non-hetero characters, and that is a disappointment. Incorporating more diverse characters can really only help a series that is so sex-positive. I do have hopes though—the series introduced Rainbow in the second story arc, a black OBGYN and Jon’s old pal, and he’s continued to be a part of the third story arc. More characters like Rainbow! 🙂

Clearly, this one’s not for the faint of heart, either. While the art is not what I would classify as pornographic, the premise of the comic insists that there be sexual images and dialogue, and there are a few groan-worthy jokes about ejaculate. But sometimes a little crassness is A Good Thing.

Comics You Should Be Reading: Rat Queens

At the beginning of the year, I decided to make a concerted effort to Read All the Comics that my buddies have been raving about for years. When I was young, ratqueensvolume1comics didn’t interest me much (and were difficult to access in our small MS town); when I was older, I simply didn’t have time to devote to catching up due to massive amounts of required reading. Anyway, among the comics that I put on the TBR list for the year was Rat Queens, and when I got to the series, I gobbled them up.

Rat Queens is an ongoing comic book series created by Kurtis Wiebe and published by Image Comics; the series has been running since September 2013, and its eleventh issue was released today. The comics have been nominated for an Eisner Award for Best New Series; the first collection was nominated for a Hugo Award; and in 2015, the series won the GLAAD Media Award.

Unfortunately, the series ran into a bit of trouble in 2014 when the original illustrator, Roc Upchurch, was arrested on domestic violence charges. Wiebe issued a statementratqueensvolume2 on his blog, and Upchurch was removed from the publication. Stjepan Sejic took over as artist for the series, but fell ill and was only able to draw a few issues. Most recently, artist Tess Fowler and colorist Tamara Bonvillain have taken over illustrations for the series.

The fantasy story revolves around the Rat Queens, a group of four female mercenaries in a small medieval (mostly) town: Violet (a dwarven warrior), Hannah (an elven mage), Dee (a human cleric), and Betty (a smidgen thief). The girls are rowdy, foul-mouthed, and buckets of fun.

The first 5-issue story arc revolves around an attempted assassination of the town’s mercenaries, while the second story arc (also 5 issues) focuses on a quest to keep an ancient god from being summoned and annihilating the townspeople. There’s also a special issue from January 2015 (Fowler’s first involvement with the series) that gives the backstory for Braga, leader of another mercenary group called the Peaches.

ratqueensbragaspecialGiven that the story has such a large Dungeons and Dragons and RPG influence, I was dubious about it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you—it’s just that I’ve never really been good at playing RPGs. But my, am I glad this story a chance.

The characters are multi-dimensional….not to mention diverse. There are different sexual orientations, races (and not just fantasy races—Rat Queen Dee is a WoC), classes, religions, and body types among the characters. Violet wears full armor, and both she and Dee rebel against cultural norms. The four girls are friends, good friends, and we  learn a lot about them through the lens of their relationships with one another. That’s a rare enough thing for it to be really special. There’s a lot of crass humor, jackassery, and goriness—-and it’s fun to see four BAMF women at the center of that.

So why should you read Rat Queens?

  • The story is nostalgic, original, and funny. Wiebe has said that the story is a “love letter” to his years playing D&D, and he once described the series as “Lord of the Rings meets Bridesmaids.”  Also, there are excellent insults to be had in those pages.
  • The characters are diverse and complex. Violet ruminates on the beard she shaved, an unheard of, bold move in her home culture. Dee is an atheist cleric. ratqueensissue11There are LGBT characters and women of color, and they don’t take background seats.
  • It’s beautiful. Even with Upchurch’s removal from the series, there has been a consistent emphasis on design, both of characters and of the page itself. Facial expressions are a delight, as are the gory battle scenes and the (relatively) quieter moments in the Rat Queen’s home.
  • There’s going to be a TV series. It’s going to be animated, and I’m sure it will be glorious. Better read the books first, though!

And now, I’m off to find that new Rat Queens issue myself and give it a peak.


Summer Reading Recommendations – Independent Comics

Last week I did a reading list of recommended comics from Marvel comics. We’ve had a couple of other reading recommendations lists as well. This week I’d like to focus on independent comics, to recommend some more great reads for your summer!

When I say “independent comics,” I pretty much mean “not Marvel or DC.” There are a lot of other publishers, although some of the big small ones are Image, IDW, and Dark Horse. You can find most all of the publishers on ComiXology – which is why it’s distressing that they have been changing hands and changing how they do business. They were an amazing portal for finding, buying and reading independent comics.

Meaning, most everything I have to recommend are things I found through ComiXology. Or had recommended by others. However, I could see these being more likely to show up places like your local library, in trade paperbacks or as graphic novels. Or even your local bookstore or comic store!

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