Matt Fraction’s eagerly awaited Sex Criminals, Vol. 3: Three the Hard Way is on its way to stores, and you should be psyched. As with the first two volumes, Fraction and co-author Chip Zdarsky have managed to produce work that completely rocks the comics industry. Seriously, they rocked it so hard, they were not only banned from multiple digital content providers (but, ahem, not Barnes & Noble), they managed to get the book banned in the entire country of Japan. All over a little…ok, quite a bit of sex.
It’s much ado about something, if you ask me—sure, it’s a bit raunchy (benefitting a comic about petty criminals who can stop time with the power of their orgasms), but it’s also incredibly clever and funny, full of relatable characters, and driven by an outlandish plot centered around time twisting shenanigans and sexual liberation, Fraction actively uses the book as a platform to provide accurate sex education and explicit commentary on mental health issues, something few books have managed to do so effortlessly (and with quite so many boner jokes).
We’re incredibly lucky, because this is hardly (hee hee) the only time Matt Fraction has done something totally revolutionary and unexpected with one of his books. Here are but a few choice examples of why he’s one of the most important writers working in comics today.
Casanova: Gula, by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon
One could argue every individual volume of Casanova deserves a place on this list (we’d be inclined to agree), but Gula absolutely takes the cake when it comes to comic book shakeups. Fraction has often described the books as the book he’d writer if he could write anything, and in this volume of his sci-fi super spy epic, it really shows. For one, the titular character barely appears; the focus is instead placed on his alternate universe twin sister, Zephyr Quinn, as she embarks on a crime spree ripe with sex, blood, and cash. The progressively meta style both serves the story and challenges the traditional narrative style of the medium. The gender exploration and nontraditional mode make Gula a book you’ll have to read more than once, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.
Paperback $15.29 | $16.99
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Javier Pulido
When Marvel assigned Fraction to Hawkeye, they didn’t put much effort into marketing it, and Fraction’s has confirmed that the team fully expected they’d be off the book after six issues. What actually happened: across more than 20 issues, they revolutionized the way we think about a polarizing character, and collected more than a dozen industry award nominations doing it. Hawkeye is a testament to what a talented team can do with the freedom that comes with a project that’s expected to fail. Instead of following the standard melodrama formula of most solo ongoings, Fraction focuses on Clint Barton’s personal life and struggles, and, perhaps more importantly, his dynamic with protégé Kate Bishop. In each largely self-contained issue, the crew works with minimal color pallets, chronologically skewed story telling, and even, occasionally, entirely dialogue-free storytelling. (You might think we’re talking about the ASL issue that got so much coverage, and we are, but there’s also a whole issue from a dog’s perspective. It won an Eisner. Seriously.) It’s a book that redefined what superhero books can be, and it’s the perfect read for anyone who loves dogs, pizza, and a good roll of tape.
Satellite Sam, by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin
Satellite Sam is a very old-timey noir, about an attempt to solve the murder of a famed New York television actor in 1951. It’s also arguably the book featuring Fraction’s largest cast of characters. The black and white artwork, sketching out the seedy world of the television business, is juxtaposed with the lurid investigation of a myriad of girls who posed in raunchy positions for the now dead television star. The book challenges the high saturation of sex and violence in the inner circles of the media, but what makes it unique is that it also questions its right to even ask such questions. The characters know they’re living dangerously, and a recurring theme is the downfall of the rich through immorality, but in the end, we still find a hero in the son of the most immoral of all the characters: the dead TV star. Also, the creators made a Tijuana Bible that’s a canonical part of the series, which, we have to say, was a gutsy move, given the story’s themes.
Fear Itself, by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immomen
First of all, this book prominently features Captain America fighting Nazis, which makes us cherish it all the more in light of recent events. Of course, as enjoyable as it might be, Cap socking it to Hitler is hardly revolutionary, but the true strength of the book is its deft handling of the reunification of Thor, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Almost five years after the events of Civil War, the damaged dynamic between the opposing sides (and evil cloning experiments, which would honestly make us pretty upset too) had still not been repaired. Fraction carefully composed a war epic that tested the mettle of the three estranged Avengers, and the result was one of those rare comic book events with lasting consequences. The epilogues also set it aside, mirroring a splinter story formula that’s popped up frequently in Fraction’s subsequent stories. Plus, there’s a battle with a giant demonic snake, and mystically enchanted costumes, and true honesty about the vulnerability of superheroes. It’s a fast-paced read that leaves you with something to think about.
ODY-C, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
If you were disappointed to learn that 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t actually a transposition of Homer’s The Odyssey in space, this book is for you. Fraction casts his version of the Homeric epic with a crew entirely comprised of women and nonbinary humanoids, as well as an entirely female pantheon. That kind of a take on the classic adventure might be enough to earn a spot on this list, but he doesn’t stop there: the entire story is told in a dactylic hexameter, a feat almost entirely impossible in English. The poetry is paired with Ward’s stunning psychedelic paintings, creating a fully immersive experience that proves the power of the visual aspect of the medium.
Five Fists of Science, by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders
This compact, single-volume graphic novel was published early in Fraction’s career, proving he’s been bucking norms from the very beginning. It’s an alternate history tale (our favorite) that takes place in the Gilded Age, pitting Nicola Tesla, Samuel Clemens, and Bertha von Suttner against a group of cultist capitalists who want to destroy the world by summoning a Lovecraftian deity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But honestly? When FFoS was first published, creating an alternate history that literally demonized capitalism made it completely ahead of its time. The book also features battle mechas, including the giant robot that Tesla pilots to fight an actual god. Yup, it’s pretty much everything you could possibly ask for from a comic book. It’s an absolute must for all your steampunk history needs.
What fantastic Fraction are we forgetting?