Supercrooks #1, America’s Got Powers #1, Brilliant #3

I got to read a a few superhero comics with a high concept attached to it this week. On to the reviews.

Supercrooks #1
By Mark Millar, Nacho Vigalondo, Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho, Virtual Calligraphy, Dave Gibbons

Mark Millar's and Leinil Yu's new series Supercrooks is another examination of the superhero genre, this time from the POV of the supervillain. Based on reading the inaugural issue, it looks like it's shaping up to be a heist story. The idea sounds interesting, although the playing with genre tropes makes the plot feel kind of obvious. The big eureka moment is when someone figures out that a successful robbery can be carried out by going to a place not patrolled by superheroes. Ya think? The crooks are the usual assortment of losers and lowlifes, while the costumed crime fighters are smug pricks who probably abuse their status. Reaaally? In a Mark Millar comic? Off course, the main protagonist is forced by extenuating circumstances to return to a life of crime.

The art is gritty and attractive, as expected of the mainstream-honed talent working on the comic. The costume designs go for the bold and iconic. If there's a weakness to Leinil Yu's character designs, it's that his people tend to look generic. This caused a bit of confusion when a Las Vegas crime boss and the main protagonist were drawn so alike they might as well be twins separated at birth.

America’s Got Powers #1
Jonathan Ross, Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie, Paul Neary, Paul Mounts, Chris Eliopoulos, Leinil Yu

America's Got Powers is the superhero genre meets Reality TV. To be more specific, talent-based shows like the wildly popular Idol franchise. But instead of singing and dancing, there are gladiatorial games featuring super powered youths who gained their abilities in utero during a freak event 17 years ago in San Francisco. The TV show was created to channel their energies to less destructive avenues. But it now seems that the show's organizers are beginning to rethink their methods.

AGP isn't particularly subtle with its social satire. The military-industrial complex pulling the strings is obviously a nefarious entity that intends to use the contestants for its own selfish goals. The public that watches the spectacle is bloodthirsty and callous. And the contestants who succeed on the show become self-centered celebrities. There's some commentary on how mass entertainment is a way to distract the populace and a way for the privileged to wage class warfare on them. By contrast, the main protagonist is exceedingly kind to a fault. He also happens to be the one person left inexplicably powerless despite meeting all the conditions that gave the other youths their abilities. The only character who is hard to categorize is the scientist trying to understand the true nature of the super powered generation.

The art pencilled by Bryan Hitch is beautifully detailed in the grandiose, panoramic manner he's become known for. It can also get a bit distracting when he tries to base his characters of real-life celebrities, which is another Hitch affectation.

Brilliant #3
By Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Nick Filardi, David Mack, Michael Aoan Oeming

College-age slackers invent superpowers. Nothing about my critique of the first issue has changed. The pacing is slow, and the characters still speak in a kind of shorthand that reveals nothing important, especially about the actual nature of the superpowers in question. The art is still mostly composed of talking heads. Events finally reach a crisis point at the end of the issue, when one of the characters is caught by the authorities using his powers for illegal gain. Three issues in, and the only guy who gets to use superpowers is the story's resident SOB? So no, the perky girl on the cover does not get to shoulder press a sedan. But with an erratic publishing schedule and only two more issues left, this series has pretty much lost any traction for me.