Travel Back To The Late 1990’s With Smooth Criminals #1

by Josh Davison

[*Mild Spoilers Ahead!]

The year is 1999, and the place is San Francisco, California. Brenda, aka Killa-B, is a college student who works at a tech shop as part of a work-study program. She’s also a hacker and general computer whiz who can crack into just about any system you put in front of her. Her manager orders her to clean out the backroom, and she finds a large machine with a computer interface. Naturally, Brenda has to check it out, and she isn’t prepared for what the machine holds–a person.

Smooth Criminals #1 cover by Audrey Mok
Smooth Criminals #1 cover by Audrey Mok

Smooth Criminals #1 is a teen-oriented but still all-ages comic about a hacker girl with a penchant for trouble getting into the heist scene in 1999.

Brenda is a charming lead to be sure. She is a troublemaker, but she doesn’t seem to be outright malicious. She feels used and underchallenged at her job, and she’s looking for adventure.

Hacking being practically a magic spell is one strange 1990’s holdover I wasn’t expecting to find in Smooth Criminals. There is a sequence wherein Brenda is hacking public utilities like traffic lights and ATM’s to direct a person to a specific location, and that stretched my suspension of disbelief. She also causes a car crash, which is the one moment where I wondered if Killa-B was a little malicious.

Beyond that, she is quite likable, and I enjoyed the story of the comic quite a bit.

Smooth Criminals #1 art by Leisha Riddel, Brittany Peer, and letterer Ed Dukeshire
Smooth Criminals #1 art by Leisha Riddel, Brittany Peer, and letterer Ed Dukeshire

Leisha Riddle’s artwork is very cute, too. It has a lot of anime/manga influence in the style, and it jives well with the tone and presentation of the comic. Brenda herself is very expressive, often blushes, and dresses like someone who spends a lot of time with computers but still sees herself as a badass. Brittany Peer’s color art is dynamic, bold, and all-around fantastic. Seriously, the color work in this book is spectacular.

Smooth Criminals #1 is a charming throwback to a bygone era where hacking was a magic ability, and college students seemed to want to go on jewelry heists. In all honesty, this is a very endearing and fun comic and is easily worth a recommendation. Check it out.

Smooth Criminals #1 comes to us from writers Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, artist Leisha Riddel, color artist Brittany Peer, letterer Ed Dukeshire, cover artist Audrey Mok, and variant cover artists Chynna Clugston Flores and Naomi Franquiz with Rebecca Nalty.

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