The ComixTribe press release describes it as "X-Men meets Oceans 11"; while a description like that usually means something to the effect of, "we're trying to piggyback off of the popularity of these two things by blending our favorite elements from them," I can't think of any other comparison that would describe as accurately and earnestly what Joe Mulvey's SCAM is: a comic that plays out as though the cast of X-Men were living the plot of Ocean's 11.
I admit I'm stepping into unknown territory here; indie/creator-owned comics are usually the sole domain of this blog's resident Wednesday Warrior, my blogging compadre Alex. I'll also tell you up front that neither I nor Alex was head-over-heels in love with SCAM #1...but the first installment of a series isn't always an indicator of where the story and style are headed.
What we liked:
- The story wastes no time bringing in both action and exposition. By the end of the first page, we've met all the characters and are beginning to get a feel for how they play into a heist that's about to occur. By the end of the second page, we know the important details of the heist and have a conflict spurring the characters into action. By the end of the third page, we're understanding some of the relationships between these characters. By the end of the fourth page, a few twists reveal some critical details about the characters and make the conflict a whole lot worse.
- The characters have superpowers (or, "freakishly unexplainable killer skills," as one character puts it) that offer a lot of interesting possibilities for this kind of story. My personal favorites are the ability to remember everything you've ever experienced and the ability to make anything you touch invisible--maybe I don't read enough comics, but those seem pretty cool, especially in this context.
- There's enough variety in the locations and coloring to keep the comic visually interesting, and a few of the panels really "pop" with an almost cinematic quality.
What we didn't care for:
- There's a big disconnect between the introduction and the rest of the story, which takes place two years later. Whereas the introduction throws the reader right into the action and keeps the pacing fairly tight, the rest of the story feels like a mostly unrelated tale that's gradually warming up, and it doesn't help that the characters aren't immediately recognizable as the thieves from the first few pages.
- Often times it's difficult to tell what's going on. Sometimes it's because of how the panels are arranged; sometimes it feels like there's a key panel or line of dialogue missing; sometimes there's there's a little too much fluff in the dialogue to properly process what's actually important to the story and the character development. I had to stop myself multiple times and re-read entire pages to make sure I didn't miss something in the illustrations or the text; that's something that very rarely happens to me even once in an issue, let alone more than once.
The writer says in the afterword, "...I hope you stick around and give me the chance to tell you some more of the story. It's just getting started." SCAM #1 starts to lose cohesion and luster after the first few pages, but those first few pages--and a handful of small moments throughout the rest of the comic--hint at what might be a more enjoyable and compelling story in the long run.
If SCAM #2 can smooth out the flow of the panels, clarify the most important dialogue, downplay the nonessential dialogue, expand on the character relationships, and continue putting all those cool superpowers to good use, SCAM might end up being a series we're eager to recommend. In the meantime, you can visit the official SCAM website and the ComixTribe store to see if SCAM #1 is more up your alley.
[A free digital copy of SCAM #1 was provided by publisher ComixTribe for this review.]