IT ENDED ON A CLIFFHANGER, THE BASTARDS.
So I continue to really enjoy Sex Criminals. I still don’t love it, I think… but I’m definitely invested in the story and the characters. I definitely care what happens to everyone and how the story goes. Enough that ending on a cliffhanger is a DICK MOVE, guys. Especially since the way the story moves is to advance, then wander into an explanation of how that advance happened, then creep forward a little more, then do the same, and so on, so you get really quite invested in each forward move because they’re so precious. I’m not saying the backwards parts aren’t really interesting – they are, and the story would be so much less without them – but it makes you really keen to see how things are going each time you get back to the forwards. It’s the same structure as the first volume, and I still really enjoy it. It’s being well executed, and each section is pretty much the right length to keep you sucked in. Which of course means that a cliffhanger ending is really very frustrating… especially since the last quite a few pages are bonus art/alternate covers/info/etc. and so you think you have more story left to go than you do.
I think at this point my main criticism is that this felt so much shorter than most graphic novels I read. Much like Lazarus, though it filled the same space it just felt… less. In the case of Lazarus, I think this is just because the story is told in big, wide frames with very small bits of text, so of course the pace slows a little. With this… I’m less sure. I think it may be partly a product of the structure, since it means you don’t move that much forward through the plot for the amount of pages you have, since you’re spending so much time meandering backwards, but I don’t think it’s just that. I guess maybe because they also spend a lot of time with the characters focussing inward? That does hold back the plot progress too.
Not that I’m complaining about that. The best bit about this story is the characters, and their internal development is part of the charm.
Again, I’m going to go on and on about the need for engaging characters (or rather I won’t, because I’ve done it a lot before so just assume I have… ok? Good…), but this really fills that. And one of the things that really makes them work is the faces. They’re really expressive with how they’re drawn, which of course is great, but also most of the main characters have quite unusual faces anyway. Some of them are just pretty/handsome, which is fine, but a lot of them aren’t, exactly. They’re weird or distinctive in some way… and it makes them charming. I still like Jonathan a lot, and his slightly odd face is just a part of that. It’s… just that bit more real.
In much the same way, there’s a pleasing mundanity to the character interactions that counterbalances the weirdness of the sex-fuelled superpowers. They laugh at stupid things and fail and fuck up and struggle, and for all that I’m reading for the time-stopping-superpowers, I think it’s this that’s keeping me reading. It feels… normal, even when it’s being really, really not.
Speaking of which, the weirdnesses of this volume: there’s a WicDiv porn parody (presumably since they share an author) and a random digression into education about female contraception options. Because… obviously? Neither of them exactly flow seamlessly into the plot, because I did have to break to go “wtf?” quietly to myself, but nor do they really break things with the weirdness either. I mean, realistically, they’re no more weird than “we can stop time when we have sex”. And it also means you get a page of porn parody titles, which is always fun. Because puns. Always more puns.
Where the first book is about characters, sex and growing up, this one is about characters, sex and how to relationship like an adult… but somehow it’s much less didactic and patronising than that sounds and it’s really great. I will definitely keep reading, even having been told there’s some sort of dildo-monster in the next volume (no, I have no idea either). They continue to excel at holding you on with the structure of the narrative and the quality of the characters and interaction, which somehow puts a definitely excellent plot into the back seat. Which is somehow an achievement I’m praising, but sure, whatever. It’s keeping on doing what it was doing in volume one, and keeping on doing it just as well. The plot does move forward fairly slowly, and it doesn’t feel like you get a lot in each volume, but what you do get is still worth it enough for me to keep being invested in the series. So no complaints here… other than that I don’t have immediate access to volume three…