At this stage in his career, Mark Millar feels a little like the Michael Bay of comics. He makes big, silly action packed blockbusters, packed with hot babes and lots of action, pleasing a large crowd without any real substance underneath. It could be argued that he has followed the same themes for a good few years now in his creator owned work – Wanted was a gritty, realistic take on supervillains winning, Kick-Ass was a gritty, realistic on superheroes and now Supercrooks is another gritty, realistic take on supervillains.
The plot concerns a small group of supervillains who realise that they have never, and will never win the day, and that the glory-hogging superheroes will always outnumber them ten to one – especially considering that they live in America (the opening scene even takes place in New York, the epicentre for all superheroes since the 1960s). When The Heat, an old retired villain, has to pay off a gambling debt, a couple of his friends get back together, aiming to start a life of crime overseas, where theoretically there are less heroes for them to face.
As a plot it’s unlikely to set the world alight, and this issue does little more than introduce the concept and tone to us. Millar’s decompressed style of storytelling is very evident here, in that the 22 pages of story are basically a set up for the characters getting their gang back together, which will (presumably) happen next issue. In some ways it feels more like buying an advert for the series rather than the series itself, and this is my main problem with Millar – his recent comics read like teasers for movies soon to based off them, instead of truly being made for the comic medium. Indeed, a movie of Supercrooks has already been optioned, and this issue is littered with ‘cool’ lines that could be used in the trailer. I also think it’s funny that the last page reveal shows a bunch of characters we are not yet familiar with, and so there is no impact whatsoever, but that’s neither here nor there.
Right off the bat we’re shown that these aren’t your daddy’s comics. Characters swear casually, and one guy gets his nosed punched in in a very bloody fashion in the first few pages. There is clearly a conscious effort here to separate this world from the colourful mainstream superhero worlds, but at times it can feel a little forced – sexual references and swearing don’t make a story ‘mature.’
While I am a little tired of Millar’s general style of writing, it can’t be denied there are some good ideas. Familiar superpowers are used in new, interesting ways, such as someone with precognitive abilities hustling a casino, or a teleporter putting an object in a victim’s skull. This is where Millar really shines, adding a fresh spin to classic concepts. Some great moments make for an overall enjoyable read, even if at times it is a little big and dumb.
The main reason to check this issue out is the art of Leinil Yu, who has really come into his own these past few years, and is deservedly now a superstar in comics art. Some of his characters look a little too similar, but the scenes feel rich and populated, and the action is very kinetic, with punches that feel like they really connect. Even talking head scenes, which can be difficult to make interesting, are well drawn here, with a variety of angles used to mix things up. Yu’s style is ideal for this comic – the people are realistic enough to be dark and gritty, but still cartoony enough to make these larger than life characters believable.
The only real problem with the art is the layouts – most pages are in an unimaginative ‘widescreen’ format, with four or five simple horizontal panels, making this look like a storyboard more than a comic. One advantage of this is that Yu’s art has a lot of space to breathe, so it’s not a major hassle.
At this stage it’s difficult to tell how Supercrooks is going to turn out, especially considering how much of a teaser this issue is. The story runs the risk of being a little predictable, but could surprise us with some original twists and turns. I suspect Yu’s art will remain the main draw here, but that’s more than enough to make this a story worthy of your attention.