It’s April in Arizona. For many teachers, such as myself, that means we’ve been in the middle of standardized testing prep and review for going on three weeks already. With all the added pressure, I feel like lately this weekly column about the positive aspects of comics has turned almost bi-weekly.
Looking at this month again, though, it makes me excited to think that, in just one more month, we will all be blessed with Free Comic Book Day. The one day a year where, well, you get free comics. All of the major publishers send participating comic book stores their sampling of the year. Many times, this is all new material, done by some of the best writers and artists that the company has. They do this in an attempt to introduce new readers to what they have to offer.
The best part about Free Comic Book Day is that there are not just superhero comics. As much as I love the genre, I understand that it’s going to take more than just superheroes to bring in readers. Free Comic Book Day understands that and is able and willing to offer. Every year it always falls on the first Saturday in May, which this year happens to take place on May 5th, 2012.
So, in celebration of this, I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of April doing mini-essay type reviews of a slew of new series that seem to be coming out all at once. I can only fathom, thanks to the major-cosmic-like success of The Walking Dead and the new readers it’s bringing to the genre (I’ve already met more than a dozen people in the comic shop I visit who are such people), many of the smaller, independent publishers like Image (who published Fell), Icon (who published Takio) and Vertigo (who published Fables) have begun new mini-series of similar nature.
Many of them, coincidentally, have only just begun. This means that it’s still possible to pick up the #1 issue and begin the awesomeness that merely just begun. So, in the spirit of the month leading to Free Comic Book Day which celebrates bringing in new readers and comic books in generals, I present to you: The April 1st’s.
This week, I’m looking at a series that has been hot on everyone’s minds for a few months now. It comes from two of the biggest creators in comics right now, and I guarantee that many of the people reading this will recognize the works of the author of the series. The book is called Supercrooks, published by Marvel Comics Icon Imprint, meant for their creators to stretch their legs and try out new things. Described to fans, months in advance, as a mix of “the X-Men meets Ocean’s Eleven.” We’ll get to that in a moment.
The author of the series is a man named Mark Millar, who many know from his other independent series known as Wanted and Kick-A**. I say that people would recognize his work because there were these two little movies that came out a little while ago. Nicholas Cage? Angelina Jolie? Anyway, continuing in that vein, Supercrooks picks up in a world filled with superheroes. Heroes that just love to hang out in all the major cities where the average “super villain” can’t even rob a jewelry store without getting into a lightning filled scrap on a subway train.
So what do some of these villains do?
They decide to go to Europe.
This isn’t the first time Mark Millar has tapped a gold mine of untapped potential. In Kick-A**, he asked the question of “What would happen if a kid really did try to be a superhero?” In Supercrooks, he’s just changing the equation. “In a world where super-heroes exist, where would the super-villains actually go?” They say Millar is the master of the obvious, taking concepts that seem so simple and blowing them up to massive proportions.
Leinil Yu is his artistic collaborator, bringing gritty and highly detailed art to the series. It took me some time to get used to his style. To be honest, from the beginning I was never a fan of Yu’s scratchy pen work or how he sometimes draws his humans, but on a closer look, the detail placed on machines. The dynamic camera angles. The large action shots. This is a man that knows what he’s doing and is willing to make it all look good.
Like many of his other projects, Millar has already begun to work the movie rights through as well. Working with Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, they put together a teaser trailer that’s for both the comic series and the movie that’s currently in the works. You can check it here. But, we’re not here to talk the movie. We’re here to talk the comic.
So, what makes this one of the new issue #1s to come out?
Let’s look at the plot.
We’re shown what looks like a regular super-powered being throw down in the middle of New York city. The Gladiator is told that Johnny Bolt and his crew of super villain misfits have robbed a jewelry story. Again. This leads to a mega-lightning powered battle on the subway that ends with The Gladiator smashing their faces in a sending them off to prison.
Once inside the Supermax Prison, Johnny Bolt catches up with the guards, hearing their tales of divorces and catching up with their kids. Once Johnny is placed in his cell, he and his partner pick up their chess game from where they last left off.
There’s no retribution. No long winded speeches. These are beings that use the elements like their play thing. It’s everyday. Normal. Routine.
What Millar does in this first issue is establish a world where super-heroics are the everyday. In Kick-A** he made the thought of someone running around in a costume a world changing event. Here, in the world of Supercrooks, he has done what many think to be undoable.
He has made super-heroics mundane.
We’re taken to Las Vegas, five years later, where the local casino bosses can use teleportation technology to enforce the laws in their casino. Even when old, retired villains like The Heat use cheap psychics to help them win the tables.
Even in this world, you never make upset the casino bosses. Threatening to kill him, they give The Heat a month to pay them back 100 million dollars he, technically, stole. This little moment, showcasing how a mainstay of our world adjusts in a world of superpowers, is one of the more interesting parts of the story.
And it’s what sets in motion the events that will guide the rest of the series.
See, Johnny Bolt has just gotten out from prison. He’s trying to reconnect with Kasey, his former fiancé and former supervillain partner from the past. She wants nothing to do with him. But when their old mentor Carmine a.k.a. The Heat comes with the awful news that if he doesn’t earn the 100 million dollars he will be killed, it forces Johnny’s hand.
Mark Millar sets up a tale of intrigue and suspense as Johnny reveals his plan: If all of these superheroes just love to hang around New York City, let them.
Meanwhile, we’re going to go to Europe to steal from them.
Supercrooks is one part heist story, two parts superhero, and all parts exciting. At only 4 total issues long, this story is set to be intense from the get-go as Johnny begins putting together the old supervillain crew for one last job.
Should be fun.
Next Week: I’ll look at two more brand new series that just began with a #1 issue. We’re talking Peter Pan in World War II and we’ll also look at a society war between vampires and zombies.
DAYS UNTIL FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: 31
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about. Contact him at email@example.com