Jon can’t shake his depression, a new sex power is revealed, and Susie has an epiphany. Our review will contain minor spoilers.
Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
“FIVE-FINGERED DISCOUNT,” Part Three It’s all been building to this: Alix gets hit by a bus. (She’s okay.)
Jon and Suzie continue navigating the void of post-breakup life, and it ain’t pretty. ‘Five-Fingered Discount’ has so far shown the protagonists at their worst. In ‘My Epiphany,’ our heroes are failing as hard as the villain is winning. #23 dwells in the silence—not Suzie’s orgasm-induced “Quiet,” but true wordless quietude. The pages are full of scenes with scant dialogue or captions. In the silence, pain bubbles up to the surface, and sometimes in that quiet place, epiphanies are reached.
We begin the issue with Jon and his all-consuming anhedonia. Even an orgy is unable to stir him from the dull drone of his life. The whole scene is colored in a sinister red. Not coincidentally, it’s the same color as Jon’s cube, the symbolic manifestation of his depression (well, that’s one interpretation), which has regularly appeared throughout the series. Sex is a medicine, or a drug, and thus is ripe for abuse. For Jon, it’s an escape from his pain, but he’s built up immunity to the pleasures sex used to provide. Jon goes on to spend an entire day—and an entire comic page—mindlessly staring at his phone. He remains in the same supine position, and it’s only by the shifting quality of sunlight in the room to indicate the changing of time. It’s a quietly devastating scene, underlining the corrosive effects of depression and the lethargy it instills in its victims.
Myrtle finds herself in similarly gloomy circumstances. We last saw her blackmailed by Bidal, threatening to release photos of her affair if she doesn’t fall in line. Her quiet struggle unfurls over fourteen panels or two pages. One of the strengths of the series is Matt Fraction’s insistence on showing over telling, and Chip Zdarsky is well up for the task. In this scene and throughout the issue, the action, expressions, and body language are all so clear that dialogue is mostly rendered obsolete. The establishing shot of the neighborhood frames Myrtle’s silhouette in the light of the kitchen window. She’s so small, vaguely resembling the outline of a human. From a telltale glance at her wedding ring to witnessing her masturbatory husband (watching a porn parody of “The Shape of Water”), readers can intuit what’s happening in Myrtle’s mind and practically see the thought bubbles emanating from her head. Is her marriage worth saving? From her posture to her pained expressions, Myrtle’s mental struggle is omnipresent likely reflecting on whether or not to double down on her “Go fuck yourself” to Bidal.
High up in Badalcorp tower, Kuber Badal is indeed fucking himself, orgasming his way to the top. Unlike the rest of the cast who are wallowing in misery, Badal is having a hell of a time. Like Jon’s hypothetical cube, Badal has a cube of his own. His secret room is finally revealed in one of the most effectively eerie scenes in the history of “Sex Criminals.” A major chunk of comic real estate is dedicated to this scene as we witness Badal’s orgasm-fueled superpower. Again, Fraction shows us these scenes with no explanation and lets us connect the dots. It’s thrilling, imaginative, humorous and downright bizarre all at once. The pages are bathed in hellish neon red, tying back to Jon’s orgy at the beginning. Badal is a definite foil to Jon, an anti-Jon if you will: confident, decisive and successful. As Jon sinks further down, Badal rises ever higher.
Whereas Jon has given in to apathy, Suzie continues to find comfort in her past, or rather her (dead) father. Suzie has her own cube, too, albeit in the form of an old computer. Is Suzie actually communicating with her father on this computer or is it some sort of delusional disorder? Or since we’re dealing with a story ostensibly about time-freezing orgasms, Suzie’s dad has likely found a way to live on through his old computer. Their conversation unfolds via green text boxes like the phosphor computer monitors of old. Zdarsky changes the font here too, further adding to the old computer aesthetic.Continued below
Near the end, Suzie peers at an art installation: fornicating insects frozen in amber, a clever inverse of Suzie and Jon’s sexual powers. Time has frozen for them, not everyone else. That’s where our separated couple are right now. The world is moving on around them while they remain on pause. Let’s hope Suzie’s epiphany brings her to Jon once more.
Zdarksy’s background jokes corner:
Ask me about my sex-positive outlook on retirement
Juicy crone on board
Connect to BlueCooch or Anais-Fi
Final Verdict: 9.0 – ‘My Epiphany’ exposes the more mundane aspects of depression in a relatively quiet issue where heroes fall and villains rise. Hilarious, melancholic, and always affecting, “Sex Criminals” remains a must-read.