Supercrooks #1–4 by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu
It may sound like a simple pitch – Ocean’s Eleven with supervillains – but it’s a good one (and superpowers make everything better) and the execution is equally good, which means that Supercrooks is a great example of a comic book that tells a fun, high-concept story in an entertaining fashion and leaves you with a sense of enjoyment afterwards. That’s exactly what I want from my disposable pop culture entertainment.
The plot has a similar start to the film – our protagonist, Johnny Bolt, comes out of prison (after being stopped by superhero, The Gladiator) and helps out his old mentor Carmine to steal from a very rich but more unpleasant supervillain (known as The Bastard – Millar isn’t subtle), gathering the old gang together, while trying to win back Kasey (also a supervillain, a psychic), the woman he unfortunately left at the altar when he was stopped by The Gladiator after robbing a jewel store on the day of his wedding. However, this is a different story, and not just because it has superpowers involved. The other high-concept element is the idea of committing a crime in a country where there are no superheroes – the heist takes place in Spanish island of Tenerife.
This is efficient comic books: the first chapter is the set-up, the second chapter is getting the gang together (The Ghost, the world’s greatest burglar; TK McCabe, the telekinetic; Forecast, the weather-maker; Roddy and Sammy Diesel, the indestructible men; plus blackmailing The Gladiator into helping them), the third chapter is the plan and the start of the heist, and the final chapter is conclusion and the reveal (which owes a slight debt to Ocean’s Eleven). Millar packs a lot into these four books, essaying his characters quickly and efficiently, showing how the villain of the piece is truly vicious (and thus deserving of the heist) and letting us know that our gang of supervillains are not as bad because they don’t kill, while setting up the world he has created for the story and delivering the tale in an entertaining way.
Yu is a great artist for this type of tale – although he does has a tendency to draw women who are all pneumatic, he has a sharp, slick style that brings a polished and modern sheen to the story. He is a good storyteller, does great action and can also bring out the humour in the situation, such as the completely nuts situation of the two indestructible men running through the molecular chainsaw in the vaults during the heist, regenerating each time. I’ve loved his work since I first saw it in a Wolverine comic written by Warren Ellis in 1997 and he’s only got better and slicker since.
This is fast-paced slice of comic book action – it’s not world-changing or reinventing the wheel or anything more than a piece of entertaining fiction – but not everything has to be. This does what it says on the tin and does it well, so you have to like it for that. This is being developed into a film co-written by Millar with director Nacho Vigalondo (who gets a co-plotting credit), which ‘doubles the number of twists’ of the comic, although I’m not sure I’d enjoy adding extra to the narrative – it is a lean tale already that doesn’t need extra fat. Recommended.
Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.