Brenda is a geeky computer hacker working in the local community college’s IT department when she unfreezes Mia Corsair, a master jewel thief from 1969! Before being awoken in 1999, Mia was chasing her ultimate prize—the Net of Indra. When Brenda discovers that the jewel is coming to a local museum, she convinces Mia to team up in order to escape from her own unfulfilling life. Soon the women are planning a heist and forming a powerful bond.
Smooth Criminals is a fun romp of a comic that kept me turning pages until the very end. Do you enjoy heist stories? Stories with awesome female characters? How about ridiculous computer hacking and/or mad science? Smooth Criminals has got it all! The first volume of Smooth Criminals sets up the history and current rivalry between Mia and her arch rival—a rich thief named Hatch—and her relationship with Brenda. The mix of friendship and heist planning is a palatable blend that keeps its tension throughout. The volume frustratingly ends a bit abruptly, but left me eager to see how the story plays out.
What makes the story so enjoyable are Brenda and Mia’s characterizations and their dynamic. Brenda is a hilarious mix of smart and silly, pairing hacker skills with a sharp analytical mind and a funny habit of talking to herself out loud. Mia is aloof with excellent thievery skills, and, although she is often frank on certain matters, she struggles with trusting others. Despite being opposites, their knowledge and skills allow them to play off one another and plan their heist. The queer representation doesn’t hurt either! Both Mia and Brenda discuss being interested in same sex relationships, and seeing well-rounded queer characters is a joy.
Secondary characters, while perhaps not as fleshed out as Brenda and Mia, still contribute to the excitement and humor of the story. My personal favorite was Mia’s mother, who is incredibly sassy, despite being incarcerated and questioned by two law enforcement officers The characterization and strong plot result in a fun thriller that runs a little bit deeper.
The art in Smooth Criminals effectively sets the tone of the story. The style leans slightly more realistic, but has plenty of movement and exaggerated expressions to portray the emotions and action. A good example of this is the opening panels where a blond rollerblader commits athletic feats worthy of a parkour master as the words narrate the moves in a self-congratulatory way; suddenly the skater asks Brenda (who is heavier, darker-skinned and sitting on the trolley) why she’s talking to herself. It’s a funny moment that sets the tone for a story where no one is what they initially appear to be. Additionally, the range of expressions portrayed rounds out the characters; a good example of this is Mia who tries to act as the mysterious thief but occasionally is prone to sudden outbursts of excitement and frustration.
Readers looking for a thrilling adventure with awesome female protagonists will find much to enjoy in this first volume of Smooth Criminals. There is nothing really questionable in this first volume, so teens and adults of all ages should enjoy this one. Libraries looking to collect the series should know that the second volume will be out after December 4 2019.
Smooth Criminals, vol. 1
By Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten Kiwi Smith
Art by Leisha Riddell
Boom Box, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
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Character Traits: Lesbian, Pansexual