ADVANCE REVIEW! Scam #1 will go on sale Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in select stores. It's sold out at the distributor, but you can order a second printing from Comix Tribe. For more information on Scam, check out whatsthescam.net.
While one of the great things about the comic book medium is how a creator's imagination isn't limited by budget, I've also been a firm believer in the need more pop comics that don't have robots and zombies in them. If the medium is to survive as a valid form of entertainment, it should run the gamut of genres — cop dramas, romantic comedies, science fiction — with varying qualities to cater to all heights of brow.
Scam #1 is another step in the right direction. It's a bit like The Losers but without the high-octane political trappings and the breezy flavor of Ocean's 11. The heists are a big factor in the latter qualifier. Writer/artist Joe Mulvey is one of our own, yes (he has a column here called What Do You REALLY Know About Comics?), but I don't know him all that well. In fact, I know him so little that I can talk about his debut miniseries without the gloves on, kid or otherwise.
The premise of Scam is the sort of high-concept revenge-heist plot that would be at home in the theatres — a heist goes wrong when a member of the group pulls a Josh Charles and betrays the team; those left in the dust plot for revenge. There's a twist to it, though: in the years since, the traitor has taken on a high-profile and legit position at a Las Vegas casino. So getting to him isn't going to be as easy as they hope.
This first issue is double-sized, running more than 40 pages and covering more ground than most first issues. I'm a big fan of when comics do this — more content means more of a chance of the reader getting caught up in the story enough to want to read the rest. This is essential for a medium where the burden of completing the story is on the reader. After 42 pages of Scam #1, I feel invested enough in the story to want to see it through. I might not have felt the same if the issue were cut off at 22 pages.
Just as important, Mulvey's storytelling is solid, sporting a verbose script that knows when to shut up for the action bits. While I don't feel like I really identify with the story's lead, he sketches the rest of the team enough to make me interested in what else they do whilst bicker and exchange colorful dialogue. Mulvey's art falters at times (some poses just aren't as convincing as others) but when the book finds him firing on all cylinders he threatens to achieve the expressiveness of an Amanda Conner.
Okay, so I withheld an important piece of information from that plot summary a couple paragraphs ago because I wanted to talk about it separately: this team of thieves has superpowers. I wasn't aware of this when I started reading the book, nor did it really dawn on me that these people had powers even though they do some pretty superhuman things — chalked it up to either magical realism or me not understanding the story. But frankly, Scam #1 doesn't make a big deal of the character's abilities or even use them all that much, so they could have been excised from the story and been pretty much the same story.
Production-wise, Scam feels professionally made and that makes all the difference for indie comics that strive for mainstream acceptance. Andrew Crossley's colors are not afraid to include colors that pop — in other words, it's not all brown and gray — and the lettering is competent even if sometimes the sound effects feel like they're filling in gaps left by the art. But I admittedly have a distaste for BLAMs being dropped in when it's obvious that there's a gun firing.
Reservations and superhumanity aside, Scam #1 is an enjoyable debut if you're into high-stakes heists and well-dressed underworld intrigue.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery.