‘Supercrooks – Book One: The Heist’ collects together the four issues of the ‘Supercrooks’ comic originally published in 2012. It comes from the minds of prolific Scottish comics writer Mark Millar and Filipino artist Leinil Yu, with whom Millar previously co-created ‘Superior’.
The story starts in modern day New York City as supercrook Johnny Bolt and three of his super-villain friends attempt a jewellery heist. Unfortunately for them, New York is full to the brim with super-heroes. The Police call in The Gladiator and they are quickly apprehended. When Johnny gets out of prison five years later, he looks up his ex-fiancée, Kasey-Anne. She has given up on a life of crime and is now waiting tables. While she’s trying to persuade Johnny to go straight, too, their former mentor, The Heat, comes to see them. Now ready for retirement after a typically unsuccessful career as a super-villain, he tried to set himself up for a life of luxury by winning big in Vegas. Unfortunately, his scam was rumbled by the casino. The owner, up-and-coming supercrook, The Salamander, has decided to make an example of The Heat. If he doesn’t come up with $100 million in ‘compensation’ by the end of the month, his retirement will be short and far from sweet.
Johnny and Kasey-Anne owe The Heat big time and feel honour-bound to help him raise the money. But how? Johnny eventually comes up with a plan. His thinking is simple enough. Supercrooks always lose out because America is awash with super-heroes. So why not go abroad and commit crime in a country where there aren’t any?
It turns out that Tenerife in the Canary Islands has a legal ban on the use of super-powers, so it has no resident super-heroes. Perhaps as a consequence, it is to Tenerife that one of the previous generation’s most successful super-villains, the splendidly-named The Bastard, has chosen to retire. Johnny’s audacious plan is to get a gang together, break into The Bastard’s mansion and steal all his money.
However, The Bastard used to have a reputation for meeting any challenges with extreme violence, frequently murdering not just his opponent but everyone they cared about, too. Can Johnny be sure the former supercrook has gone soft in his old age or might he and his gang come to regret their choice of target?
Mark Millar has written some great scripts for Marvel and for his own Millarworld stable, including ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘Wanted’, both of which have gone on to be made into highly successful Hollywood movies. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that the writing in ‘Supercrooks’ is excellent, finding just the right balance between the tongue-in-cheek humour of his take on super-heroes and super-villains and a brutal noir sensibility.
Millar’s writing is brilliantly complemented by Leinil Yu’s artwork. His style is realistic, dynamic and exciting. He puts a lot of detail into every frame without creating clutter or confusion. Those of a squeamish disposition should note, though, that there is a lot of violence in the story, including dismemberments and exploding heads. Yu’s realistic, rather than comic, style makes the explicit portrayal of such moments a little shocking. That aside, I found myself re-reading the story several times as much to admire the art as to re-acquaint myself with the characters and plot.
If I had to find something to criticise, I might question the central idea that while the USA is chock-a-block with super-heroes and super-villains, they seemingly haven’t spread beyond its shores. In particular, if Tenerife really has introduced a ban on the legal use of super-powers, why aren’t lots of supercrooks already over there, using their powers illegally, given how hard it is for them to make a living in America? However, if you can swallow this one point, there’s very little else to find fault with.
‘Supercrooks’ is a well-scripted and excellently drawn graphic novel. It provides an original and witty take on the superhero genre and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is sub-titled, ‘Book One: The Heist’, which strongly suggests a sequel is planned. I can’t wait.