What a disappointment Sex Criminals has become for anyone who enjoyed the fun, quirkiness and originality of the first few volumes. That seems to have just been the sweetener for Matt Fraction’s exploration of what shapes a person, and how tragedy in their past is relevant to their present. To say the series has taken a wild swerve totally understates the case. Five Fingered Discount was introspective, dull and virtually a laughter free zone, and while Six Criminals is a slight improvement, there’s no leap back up to the earlier innovation and quality.

For readers who have stuck with the series over the sea change in approach from wry comedy to therapy session, there is a resolution at least. The people able to stop time by orgasming have come to the conclusion they’re being manipulated by tech entrepreneur Kuber Badal. They are, and Suzie is having grim glimpses of the future. These address her sense of self-worth and the doubts she’s been plagued by throughout her life, and only confrontation is going to resolve the issue. That gives much of the background to what’s been going on, but is more convenient than satisfactory, providing the ending people want while running through Suzie’s life.

As ever, Zdarsky’s art is work-intensive and character-rich, broken down into so many small panels, and creative when it comes to the less commonplace details. He brings the cast to life, and is especially good on Six Criminals’ best chapter, in which Jon lets loose his frustrations in magnificent style.

The opening page offers the recognition that jokes have become scarce, and is the first of several intrusion pages in which Bud and Dewey tell well known jokes badly, which is clever and provides the intended laughs. The final chapter jumps forward a few years to their wedding, which at least has some funny moments, but it’s a largely meaningless and meandering epilogue adding nothing than the closure of finding out how life progressed for the cast.

Many other online reviews find depth where there seems to be none, and don’t find the transition of mood midway through the series leads to any kind of dip in quality for Sex Criminals. It’s puzzling. Six Criminals is a slight improvement on Five Fingered Discount by virtue of greater variety, but it’s also indulgent in places, taking a considerable time to say little. Anyone really wrapped up in the cast may or may not be happy with how things end for them.

The third volume of Big Hard Sex Criminals combines this with Five Fingered Discount.