There’s a lot you can say about Mark Millar’s comics. Overly profane. Lowest common denominator. Excessive. Formulaic. Well, I’ll concede that each of these descriptions are absolutely true, but despite all of that (or maybe because?) Mark Millar’s works have always been wildly entertaining. Marvel Civil War had some great moments. Marvel 1985 was overtly sentimental. Fantastic Four has been serviceable. Wanted was a piece of nihilistic shit, but it had its legions of fans. Superman Red Son…well, Red Son was pretty awesome.
In a strange way, you can think of Millar as the comic equivalent of Michael Bay. Big explosions, big heroic moments, big everything.
In the creator owned Kick Ass, Millar wanted to have a comic about a comic book fan who decides that the world needs a real hero. Of course, it doesn’t help that Dave Lizewski is an unpopular dork with no powers, skills or ideals. He’s a comic book geek, a slacker, and his high school crush thinks he’s gay. He just wants to be cool, which becoming a masked hero seems oddly counter intuitive. It’s hard becoming popular when nobody knows who you are.
Hey, I never said Dave was smart.
What follows from that set up, in an ongoing series that feels like it gets a release every few decades, is a blood soaked, gory, hyper offensive piece of pulp. Though starting off as a kind of “realistic” take on masked heroes, after the fairly believable first two issues reality is thrown right out the window. And gets run over by the cars below. And robbed. Then brought back Six Million Dollar Man style, only to be killed with a nuke.
You see Dave’s attempts of heroism ending with him being stabbed, hit by a car, and his clothes robbed to boot. He’s left nearly crippled and in a body cast for a few months. Not exactly the stuff of comic book legend. I appreciated this outcome, because it was the only real one to expect. If you have no combat training and you try to take on gangsters, your liable to get fucked up. From there, he eventually does save a guy from ne’er-do-wells and becomes an internet sensation, setting up a Myspace for victims to ask for his help. Which is sad, but for some reason I can see real teenage heroes doing this.
Which is a really stupid idea, but again, I didn’t say Dave (or many teenagers) was smart.
When Hit-Girl is introduced into the fray after Dave chooses the wrong Myspace friend to help, you can kiss realism good bye. And you know what? The comic also gets a hell of a lot more entetaining from that point on. Though Dave’s escapades were brutally violent, Hit-Girl’s arrival jolted me with just how explicit it all was. Limbs fly, heads severed and lots and lots of red ink is spent colouring it all. Her “secret origin” is like a warmer, happier version of Cassandra Cain’s, with her father training her to be a lethal killing machine, from hand to hand combat to being shot to assassinting people. Only unlike Cassandra, Hit-Girl seems to enjoy these violent training sessions.
Kick Ass isn’t a smart, witty, modern masterpiece. In it’s own way it’s rather stupid. But like Popeye, it is what it is. The story doesn’t have anymore meaning than to simply set Dave up as a would be hero and see what happens. The happenings are satisfyingly extreme, which is what any Mark Millar fan expected going in. It’s a fun time, whenever it does get released, which brings me to the biggest complaint – it never, ever gets released. Like I mentioned earlier, the series started last April and only 6, SIX, issues have been released. That’s an average of one issue every 2.3 months. It’s hard staying engaged if a TV show only had a new episode every three or four weeks.
On the brght side it’s not exactly an expensive proposition to get caught up.
What always excels, despite the delays and sometimes weak storytelling, is John Romita Jr’s art. He’s not the best artist working (though he is rather popular), but he has a way with lines and action that makes a lot of scenes flow together really nicely. There’s a momentum involved that doesn’t feel artificial. Some comics fall into the trap where every panel just has a deliberate, planned out feeling. Not a bad thing, mind you, but it does cause readers a momentary pause to think about it. Romita’s panels just feel organic, as if it were the characters that dictated the happenings panel to panel, not the writer or artist. Romita also looks like he’s having the time of his life drawing Kick Ass, going with a more rugged look than usual to accentuate the ample amounts of carnage.
There’s also a movie coming out, which was apparently planned before the first issue of this comic was ever released. Funny how Hollywood works. Word is Millar has a far bigger role in the process here than he had in Wanted, though I rather enjoyed the film version of that a lot more than the irredeemable comic. It’s also a funny notion that the movie may actually have more story in it than the available issues of the comic by the time it’s released.
A downside is that Nicholas Cage is playing Hit-Girl’s father, Big Daddy. I’ll guess he’ll be bringing in the patented Cage brand of acting – suck. Also, the actor they hired to play Dave (Aaron Johnson) looks way too handsome to be believable as a dork that can’t get a date. I mean, he’s practically Zac Efron light, so it’s inconceivable that he’ll be struggling so much socially.
On the bright side, Matthew Vaughn is directing and Layer Cake and Stardust were very good movies. Vaughn’s a really talented director so I’m sure that at the very least it’ll be competently made. I just hope the studios have the balls to make sure this gets a hard R-rating, because any less and it wouldn’t be right. The comic is built around the violence. It’s what makes it so damned entertaining.