If you’re a comic book geek, film fan or Daily Mail reader, the chances are that you will have heard of Kick-Ass. The eponymous, scuba-suit wearing hero clobbered his way onto screens with his foul mouthed, pint-sized sidekick, Hit-Girl, earlier this year to critical acclaim.
But where did it all begin?
Before the fantastic film came the equally fantastic comic. Written by Mark Millar, and drawn by John Romita Jr, it ran from February 2008 right up to moments before the movie was released. And now it’s back.
For UK readers, Issue 1 of Book 2 is basically a collection of the teasing snippets shown in CLiNT over the last few months. It picks up where we left off at the end of Kick-Ass Book 1. The ever-present Hit-Girl has now become a Yoda figure to Kick-Ass, teaching him in the ways of combat and battle. He seems to be continuing his superhero alter ego lifestyle, and has high hopes to create the world’s first superhero team, something he and Red Mist spoke about before the latter’s betrayal in Book 1.
Without giving too much away, this issue lays the foundations of what is going to come. There are some Lost-esque flashforwards. There are some explosions. There are some costumes made from lyrcra. Kick-Ass is back.
After hugely enjoying both the comics (which I read as the repackaged graphic novel) and this year’s film adaption, I had, and still have, high hopes for Book 2. The wonderful concept of every superhero geek’s fantasy coming true in such a brutally, grittily real way certainly has a lot more depth and areas to explore, providing Millar a lot of material to cover. But could Kick-Ass 2 do what Heroes season 2 failed to do? Or would it cave under pressure, and suffer from the dreaded second album syndrome? I’m happy to say that Book 2 doesn’t just deliver. It – yes! – kicks ass.
Inevitable puns over, it should be said that Kick-Ass is known for its extremes in the ways of language and violence with, perhaps, a focus more on the latter. The tagline for Book 1 was “sickening violence: just the way you like it!” which tells us readers we’re not really looking at something Enid Blyton may have written. Gore lovers will be pleased to know that John Romita Jr’s red ink is freely flowing again all over Issue 1 of Book 2.
However, it did strike me that it never descended into hyperbolic violence, as maybe the last Issue of Book 1 did. Obviously, it’s early days into this story, but I did think it was a wise move from Millar. He seems to not have tangled himself in the sticky web of believing he has to constantly outdo his last extremity, which means he can focus more on the execution of the story itself.
Don’t get me wrong, Kick-Ass remains as violent, graphic, coarse and explicit as ever, but it never descends into the ridiculously farcical in this issue. Well, at least it doesn’t in relation to violence.
And it is this idea of the ridiculously farcical that brings me nicely onto my next point. There was something about Kick-Ass 2, Issue 1’s ending that really divided me. The part of me that wanted to dress up as Kick-Ass for Halloween, and has worn my Kick-Ass DVD out from watching it too much and has re-read Kick-Ass Book 1 many times thought it was amazing, and looks forward to seeing how this superhero league will work in reality. The other part of me wondered if this plot device might be a dropped stitch in what will be the Kick-Ass legacy.
I agree with Millar’s idea to up the ante for Kick-Ass 2 and that the logical step would be to create a league of superheroes and a league of super villains (and the forewarned face-off in Times Square, of all places, sounds awesome!). But seeing the costumes of some of the members of Kick-Ass’ colleagues in Justice Forever made me think perhaps the story has strayed momentarily off into the dizzy heights of comic book impossibility.
The point of Kick-Ass is, as its creator has said on numerous occasions, it’s a teenage guy who wants to be a superhero, but on a budget of $200. Seeing some of the new characters reminded me of watching the first of the recent Spider-Man films. Alright, so I’ll believe that Peter Parker can be bitten by a radioactive spider and gain spider-like powers from this. Okay, I’ll even believe that Kirsten Dunst can get the hots for him too. I just can’t believe that he has access to anyone or anything that can make a suit that cool. And that was, genuinely, my only problem with Kick-Ass 2, Issue 1. Two or three members of Justice Forever just looked too cool.
But that’s just me being unfair and looking to fault a sequel that really can’t be faulted. Apart from The Ricky Gervais Show audiobooks and podcasts, this might be the best three quid I’ve ever spent. The artwork is, as ever, brilliant. The dialogue and story are great and Kick-Ass has really given me the hope that one day I can pull on a stupid mask and some green tights and clear up my own town for the better.
Miller, at the end of this issue, says writing Kick-Ass was like “slipping into warm bath water” and I’m so pleased to say that reading it carries exactly the same feeling.
All I can say is if you loved Kick-Ass Book 1, wait ‘til you get a load of this.