Danny Djeljosevic: I will say this much for Mark Millar and Leinil Yu's Supercrooks: I'm really excited for the movie adaptation.
Nick Hanover: The movie already exists, Danny. It's called Ocean's 11. But like Wanted, they removed all the super powers and prettied it up. Fucking Hollywood.
Danny: But seriously, at this point I'm just going to gauge my excitement for Mark Millar properties based on who's doing the movie. Nacho Vigalondo (credited as co-plotter) is going to direct the Supercrooks movie, so seeing the director of the totally bonkers Timecrimes making a movie about superpowered criminals moving to Europe to do crimes is something I want to see.
Nick: Treating Mark Millar comics as extended trailers of future films is an interesting way to go about things but I'm not sure I'm able to do that yet. Actually, all things considered, I can legitimately say that so far this is the best thing I've read of Millar's since 1985. The comic, not the year.
Danny: Y'know… I'm inclined to agree with you on that last note, considering how much of his recent work I've found totally lacking in even basic Mark Millar appeal (Ultimate Avengers) or only enjoyed for its audacity (Kick-Ass, Nemesis). With that in mind, Supercrooks is certainly his best work in years — but is it regular good?
Nick: That's a more difficult question to answer. There are some pretty big problems with it. The easiest of those to address is Millar's blatant "sampling" of his own material, in this case page 7 and its flurry of Kick-Ass moments, concluding with a final panel that is lifted wholesale from Kick-Ass… a cover of Kick-Ass, no less. I love hip-hop, but this is some Asher Roth level shit right here. There's also some pretty clunky dialogue decisions, like almost the entirety of page 23, but particularly the repetition of the "plan. But beyond all those finicky yet easily identifiable issues, there's this feeling I get when I read this title, like I've already read this series a dozen times.
Danny: We've read the series a couple times and seen more than a few movies that operate in the same territory. Which is okay to some extent, but Millar writes like this is the first time a small-time criminal has ever been desperate enough to want to pull a big heist, regardless of whether he's wearing a costume or not. And what's worse is that there's absolutely no surprises to this comic — no twist on the old story, no subtle subversion, just "I've got a chance to steal a heap of money," followed by "I think it's time to get the old gang back together."
Nick: The more I think about it, the more I start to wonder if this is actually going to turn out to be The Brothers Bloom. Joking aside, I think a big part of why I enjoyed this issue despite its problems is because of Leinil Yu, who does a great job minimizing a lot of Millar's bad habits and also fills the panels with a surprising amount of detail and depth.
Danny: Real talk — I've always dug Leinil Yu, but dude's at the top of his game in here with really clean linework and clear storytelling, but we can assume that inker Gerry Alanguilan is keeping in check some of Yu's usual tendencies for incessant crosshatching. I'm not too keen on his "widescreen" layouts but considering the purpose of this comic I guess I'll grudgingly live with it. And Yu's rendition of pseudo "real world" superhero costumes makes these characters look like bros I'd like to follow in a story, despite the script.
Nick: The costumes are a major asset to the story, since they're flashy without being gaudy and get straight to the point without the usual idiocy that has flooded superhero design. Granted, we haven't seen a female super heroine or villain in costume yet, but based on the cover I don't think that will be a problem. I was similarly impressed with Yu's general character design, since everyone in this story actual stands out as an individual creation instead of a celebrity surrogate. Granted, Millar doesn't give us much reason to care about Kasey and Johnny Bolt's relationship, but I already like Kasey and I'm hoping that part of the story will be developed more in the next issue.
Danny: Kasey is pretty much the only character with any identifiable humanity — she's annoyed that her fiance decided to get himself kicked into Superjail instead of, y'know, marrying her. On the other hand, the most Johnny Bolt has done is complain about the guys who throw him into Superjail and assures us he's charming despite doing absolutely nothing charming. I guess we'll have to see what actor plays him in the movie to get that effect. And we all know the superheroes are going to be scumbags because Millar's sub-Garth Ennis approach to capes in this book ("Remember that time he said he'd let me go if I gave him a blowjob?").
Nick: He's charming because even his jailers like him and give him hints about how he should stage his inevitable future crimes. But yes, Johnny Bolt is a bit of a problem. He's got a power set so generic even the sub-Captain America/thatotherolderGuardian-style hero makes fun of it right off the bat. He comes across as a smarmy douche yet everyone in the story apparently loves him. And the only clue we get that maybe he can strategize comes from the chess game that the other player kept warm for him while he was out failing at being a bank robber.
Danny: Here's a telling moment as to how uninspired these characters are — I thought Electric Danny Ocean's cellmate was a character from Wanted.
Nick: That's not even the worst. The bad guy's name is fucking Salamander. But clearly, as with most things Millar, the characters aren't what you're supposed to enjoy so much as how they fit into the concept. And for these purposes — namely, a supervillain heist story — it makes a certain kind of sense to
reduce them to their powers or specialities. I mean, that is what most heist films do after all. He's the man with the plan (theoretically…I've yet to see proof of this), she's the intelligence operative, poor beat up old man who will probably be played by Frank Oz is the demolition expert, etc.
Danny: Despite how refreshingly not-racist it is for a Mark Millar comic (yet), it's shocking just how by-the-numbers Supercrooks is — again, for a Mark Millar comic. It's like Millar wanted to skip the middle-man and just start out with mediocre product before Hollywood machinations took all the personality out of it. Or maybe it's just an easier sell in this form, leaving room for Vigalondo to make Supercrooks into a frenetic superpowered heist movie — Matthew Vaughn certainly understood what Kick-Ass was better than Millar himself did, NEVAR 4GET. Either way, Supercrooks is a glorified pitch. TWO STARS.
Nick: Agreed. In a way, Millar is becoming the Kevin Smith of comics, writing for his steady, vocal fanbase without caring much (if at all) for the potential of the medium and throwing out clever soundbites where required. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that, especially when he is at the least making an effort to dial down his excess and bad habits– look at how little grotesque violence is in this first issue! So I'm going to say three stars for this; workmanlike and relatively uninspired, but better than we've seen from Millar in some time, with excellent work by Leinil Yu and Gerry Alanguilan.
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. His webcomic The Ghost Engine (drawn by Eric Zawadzski) will debut on April 2, 2012.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.