Memories as Life Rafts: On Sex Criminals #30 and its Thoughts on Nostalgia

Lit by her history, Suzy glows as she falls through her memories. She sinks into her worst days, trapping herself within them. As her depression washes over her, she remembers. Memories of good times lift her.

Nostalgic pining is affecting everything in my life, from Star Wars and comics to family members and politics. It’s frustrating. The discourse around it is exhausting, and it’s growing increasingly uninteresting to me. By talking about memories and Suzy’s history, though, Sex Criminals #30 provided me with a new perspective on nostalgia, and gave me a better understanding of its value.

Suzy’s nostalgia helps save her in the issue. It isn’t what ultimately frees her from depression, but it serves as a life raft to help her survive for a time. It lifts her up and away from her dark memories. In this way, the issue, almost accidentally, gives nostalgia more value than I previously gave it. It effectively says that nostalgia can help me – save me, even – when I really need it. Sometimes all I need to do is think of good times and summon a lifeboat. Nostalgia can be exactly that when I don’t have enough energy for anything else. 

Chip Zdarsky’s art in Sex Criminals #30

While it isn’t directly discussed, the issue is able to say a lot about the nature of memory in an interesting way. Suzy narrates, “memories of good times are still memories,” toward the bottom of a double page spread, which consists of her floating over 16 panels taken from previous issues. The whole page is drowned in pink (her identifying color), a choice that doesn’t make perfect sense from an aesthetic perspective, but from a metaphoric one carries a lot of weight.

Across the spread, I worked my way through the different notable panels while Suzy considered her thoughts on memories and feelings, but the coloring demonstrated the effect that time and perspective can have on memories. It would have been easy to recreate the panels exactly as they were, but by soaking them in pink it perfectly demonstrates one reason why nostalgia isn’t a reliable feeling: memory itself isn’t reliable. Memories are imperfect, full of tiny lies and inconsistencies. Nostalgia relies on those imperfect memories to create an idealized time that we can lose ourselves in. Suzy decides against doing so, believing that creating new memories is more valuable than even good ones from the past. 

Chip Zdarsky’s cover to Sex Criminals #30

I’m fond of this bit of the issue, because it strikes a line that I think really works. Suzy narrates and explains why living in the past isn’t enough for her, while the events of the issue reveal that nostalgia has functions that are valid. She realizes she needs more than just her past joy. She feels the need to create new memories, new joy. It illustrates the balance I’ve had a hard time striking, even while writing this piece, of understanding why nostalgia is both helpful and harmful. I am a product of my past, and I don’t ignore it. But drowning myself in my memories, good or bad, isn’t enough. Floating is fine for a bit, but it’s not enough long term. 

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