REVIEW: Supercrooks #4 (of 4)

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Or – “The Kansas City Shuffle…”

Mark Millar has a very cinematic storytelling style, owing as much to Hollywood’s output as to that of the House of Ideas or the Distinguished Competition.  This series has been a very open riff on the ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ movie series, combined with the trappings of a super-hero comic, but can he stick the landing as well as Clooney & Pitt?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

SUPERCROOKS #4
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Leinil Yu
Co-Plotter: Nacho Vigalondo
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Nicole Boose
Publisher: Icon/Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously, in Supercrooks:  Johnny Bolt has assembled a motley crew of super-powered types, choosing their particular talents specifically to bust through the security measures on the vault of a super-villain called The Bastard, in the hopes that this final score will finally put him in the big time. A quick check of IMDB explains why this feels so much like a movie treatment:

Supercrooks (2014)

  • Release Date: 2014
  • Meter: 100%
  • Genre: Superhero, Action, Adventure

Ocean’s Eleven meets the X-Men when seven supervillains head to Europe to pull the biggest job of their career where there are no superheroes to stop them.

The weird part is, even though I didn’t check that until AFTER I read the issue, it has still changed my feelings about the issue.  More on that in a moment…

“YOU’RE LOOKING AT A BOESKI, A JIM BROWN, A MISS DAISY, TWO JETHROS AND A LEON SPINKS, NOT TO MENTION THE BIGGEST ELLA FITZGERALD EVER.”

We open this issue as the heist finally gets set in motion. as Johnny Bolt’s makeshift team of washed-ups, has-beens, never-weres and a deeply closeted and conflicted superhero break into The Bastard’s European stronghold.  There are some interesting bits of dialogue in the first half of the issue, but I find myself bothered by a few very cliche story-telling moments:  The one female character has been captured by the bad guys, and is dragged away to be tortured while being threatened with sexual assault.  The gay character has been manipulated into betraying everything he believes in to avoid being outed.  And, oh yes, the actual ascent to the vault owes a GREAT debt to the similar scene in the remade ‘Ocean’s Eleven.’  There are some very clever bits here, as the guys with healing factors are used to circumvent a vicious laser grid designed to chop undesirables to pieces.  Sadly, though, even that scene bothers me, as the character interactions are clearly based on Casey Affleck and Scott Caan’s characters from the movie, with a trap clearly based on the first Resident Evil flick.  Leinil Yu delivers on the graphic promise of guys who can be cut to pieces, though, and the final wide shot of littered body parts strewn in all directions is well-realized, and even a bit clever…

YOU’RE GONNA NEED A CREW AS *NUTS* AS YOU ARE!

The second half of the issue has the real meat of the story, as the Supercrooks try to get out of Terry Benedict’s Bellagio The Bastard’s mansion alive.  Carmine, the eldest of the gang, gets a cute scene where Johnny allows him to use his old-school raygun to cut through the last defenses of the vault, which is a very nice character touch for me.  More importantly, the mental duel between the telepathic Bastard and Kasey, the lone female character, has a swerve in it that, while I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, still felt authentic and well-earned by the character.  The issue is, sadly, full of close-ups of Kasey’s face, showcasing Yu’s tendency to draw the gooshy red inside of everyone’s eyelids (a real downfall of his art for me, going back to the days of his work on New Avengers) but the issue is impressive, art-wise.  Even the bland and somewhat cliched costumes that the characters wear on their mission get an in-story explanation, and I have to say that the moment where Gladiator reveals himself to a turncoat hero on the Bastard’s payroll was a pretty meaty dramatic moment.  Overall, the issue works better in the aftermath, explaining what each character did AFTER the heist, than in most of the heist itself, especially in the final twists of how Johnny Bolt keeps The Bastard from hunting them all down in cold blood. (That part is, admittedly, kind of awesome.) And, I wouldn’t be a good D&D player if I didn’t mention that a ‘Bag of Holding’ is not a new concept.

THE BOTTOM LINE: WHY IS THIS $4.99?

All in all, this issue is a pretty strong outing overall, with the cliched moments balanced by some very enjoyable work, and solid art throughout.  I would have enjoyed a little more differentiation from the source material to make this more than ‘Ocean’s Eleven with costumes,’ but in the long run, Ocean’s Eleven with costumes makes for an okay issue.  Had I not run across the IMDB ‘In Development’ page for the movie adaptation, I’d have classified this as a slightly-above average miniseries and left it at that.  For some reason, though, knowing that I’m reading a movie pitch leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially given that the translation to serial comic book format is the biggest difference between this story and the movie it’s homaging. Supercrooks #4 has an element of anticlimax to it, and is still a bit overpriced for my taste, even at 36 pages, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Call it a gut reaction, call it bias, but what makes for a pretty good comic book ends up making only a sort-of-okay back-handed storyboard pitch.

Rating: ★★½☆☆



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