A comic about obnoxious people with super-powers being snarky to each other while doing the things they’re supposed to be good at very badly can only mean one thing: it’s the latest issue of one of the Avengers titles–wait, no!–it means we’re getting an the first issue of Scam, having its first release through the Diamond distribution system last week. It’s a comic that lifts the premise of The Italian Job remake but with super-villains instead of plain old master thieves. Mostly, it sounds like one of those high-concept comics Image or Boom! come out with every couple of months where it’s all “superheroes in the Wild West” or “robots vs. cornfields.,” trying to get someone’s foot in the door of the mainstream comics world. At least, what passes for mainstream in such a dark and seedy ghetto populated by readers looking for the latest bagged fix of Astonishing X-Men or Deathblow or whatever. In this case, writer-artist Joe Mulvey and publisher ComixTribe are the Jesse Pinkmans of the comic publishing world; Diamond Comics Distributors would be the kill-crazy Tuco, I reckon.
In any case, this particular fix has scenes where super-crooks get together to try and get back at a former colleague who set them up for a fall–leading them into a police ambush and pinning some murders-for-hire he had committed on them (seemingly just to be a dick about it)–but the first step in their plan is to have the gang’s requisite girl member of questionable proportions (who, yes, is very catty and confrontational, how’d you guess?) cause a massive traffic pile-up involving a semi-truck likely killing a bunch of people just to inconvenience their mark. That’ll show him!
This is also a comic where there’s the “girl bends over and the artist makes a point to fixate on her butt” scene, the scene where the traitor–now a successful hotel owner–dresses down the secretary he implies he’s sleeping with for daring to address him as an equal, the torture scene, and, since this is a comic where super-powers were thrown in for some reason, an exchange where one character hates having their powers referred to as “powers” and the other person comes up with a smartass response that makes the word okay. It’s a checklist comic. Mulvey also doesn’t have a firm grasp on the timeline of his events, with most of the gang seemingly waiting for hours on end while another member deals with being attacked by mysterious assailants at the airport. Both scenes by themselves are fine, but the way they’re context for each other and the way they intercut just doesn’t add up (for starters, the one arriving at the airport seems to have arrived at precisely the time he was supposed to meet with the others in a rundown bar in the desert, yet didn’t see fit to try and phone anybody). His figures are also awkwardly posed at times, particularly one panel focused on two completely different people of differing sizes and genders walking in exactly the same gait like those creepy kids from Village of the Damned.
However, and this is the key part, Mulvey does bring an enthusiasm to his work that makes it endearing, even in the face of it containing so many elements I just didn’t care about. A bathroom fight scene was just one “wide stance” quip away from being hilarious, while another sequence where one of the gang uses a grumpy old lady as distraction for a getaway actually hit just the right sense of timing and cartoonish storytelling to elicit a chuckle. Mulvey also shows a good eye for layouts when introducing a paddle-wielding henchman sporting a mohawk, having him dominate the one page he appears in (something none of the other characters do in this comic) before he’s sent off to curb stomp some folks. Frankly, that his biggest failings are the ones made by the vast majority of what’s published in the Big Two, but done without kidding itself into thinking it’s art with fake-sincere macho posturing, actually gives him and ComixTribe a leg up. Like with Breaking Bad protagonists Walter and Jesse, I don’t necessarily like what they do, but I hope for their success.