In addition to the polished art and engaging characters, there’s a fantastic idea behind Sex Criminals. It happens to a very select few, but when they orgasm time stops, and they’re able to wander around a world where everyone else is frozen. That state doesn’t last forever, and beware being caught naked when time starts again. Big Hard Sex Criminals Volume One introduced us to a bunch of characters, but most prominently the likeable Jon and Suzie, who live up to the criminal bit of the title by robbing a bank to save a library. The cast is expanded further here.

However, the exuberance of Sex Criminals takes a downward slide, with the distinct impression given that Fraction didn’t really know where to take the series after the initial concept and the first ideas that sprang from it. The beginning here is strong enough, offering some hilarious fantasy scenes and surely the best academic lecture ever presented in comics, providing insight and some distressing realities for women. It’s after that when the wheels begin to come off.

That’s nothing to do with Chip Zdarsky, who may be toning down the background signs, but maintains the highest penis per page ratio ever seen in American comics. His visual imagination expands to the wilder needs of the plot, and he continues to supply likeable ordinary people.

Characters have been shown having therapy sessions, used by Fraction as a way of revealing their past and their insecurities, but the change of tone occurs when Fraction begins treating the series as his own therapy session. Meta-textual intrusions occur, and he drops into a holding pattern where it’s just a parade of hang-ups as the now expanded cast are explored. What was once fresh, witty and fun has slid down the enjoyment scale. It’s still clever, but clever doesn’t always mean the same as good.

If preferable, this content is available in paperback as Three the Hard Way, and Fourgy.