Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's creator-owned comic Sex Criminals is a filthy, hilarious heist story about a couple who discover that they can stop time while orgasming, and keep it frozen until they become horny again -- so they use their power to rob banks in order to rescue a library from foreclosure (naturally). The first two series of the comic are collected in Big Hard Sex Criminals, a fabulous hardcover whose plain pink wrapper comes off to make it look like you're reading a book on DIY pet euthanasia.

The premise of stopping time is a well-worn one in science fiction, with a fairly even split between those who use their powers to commit daring robberies and those who use them to be creepy sexual predators. By making sexual arousal the origin of the protagonists' powers — but also its downfall — Fraction and Zdarsky mostly take the latter motif off the table.

So we live the stories of Suzie, a librarian who is desperate to rescue her local library from a rapacious, foreclosing bank that wants to knock down the building and sell the lot to high-rise developers; and John, an actor whose confused sexual history got a lot weirder when he learned that he could freeze time every time he rubbed one out.

Zdarsky is a prolific, compulsive visual gag-maker, and the backgrounds and incidentals of Sex Criminals have more jokes than an average Mad Magazine parody; this sets the tone for the whole story: raunchy and bawdy, but not really porny (though porn naturally plays a big role in the lives of Suzie and John).

Naturally, Suzie and John's crime spree attracts the attention of other time-stopping orgasmers, and plunges them into sex-conflict with orgasmic vigilantes who track down rogue time-freezers and neutralize them to keep the secret safe. The fuck-wars that follow are intensely logistical, though not exactly erotic: one adversary has the power to kegel herself into orgasm, a huge tactical advantage; but John and Suzie are well-practiced at attaining simultaneous orgasm, giving them the power to fight as a team while their adversaries are frozen in normal time.

Zdarsky and Fraction use all this lewd business to make some shrewd commentary on sex and shame, gender and the sex-trade, and the relationship of mental health and SSRIs to sex drive in a work-driven modern world.

In other words, Sex Criminals goes well beyond a crude gag and becomes a thoughtful — and still hilarious and sexy — story about health and dysfunction in sex and life. The omnibus edition of the first two series makes for a fantastic read, and will leave you panting and begging for more.

Big Hard Sex Criminals [Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky/Image Comics]