Review by Frank Plowright
The apparent deep-rooted appeal of superhero comics is wish-fulfilment, and based on reading articles about people creating their own costumes and patrolling American streets as faux superheroes, Mark Millar conceived Kick-Ass.
Dave Lizewski is a high school victim who discovers merely dressing up in a costume at home in front of his mirror is empowering. The conclusion to his first public patrol is a severe beating, requiring considerable hospital treatment and several months of recuperation. Despite what some might consider a career-ending setback, Dave is addicted, and when recovered, ventures out in costume again. His next intervention is more successful, and Dave’s career receives a massive boost when footage of him appears online. His costumed career, such as it is, is effectively contrasted with his school life, and his discovering a deceitful method of hanging out with the girl he fancies.
Kick-Ass is a 21st century update of Spider-Man’s earliest days given a perverse twist, but what raises it from interesting to compelling is the character of Hit-Girl, an eleven year old pint-size assassin, trained by her father to be merciless, resourceful and desensitised to violence in order to help protect him from unknown forces. Dave is fortunate she intervenes when he’s in over his head. He later finds another ally, inspired he says, by what Dave has begun, and with confidence in numbers Dave can eventually take crime fighting more seriously. However, the series opens with an indication that all has not gone well, and is narrated in hindsight.
This is all drawn in his great chunky style by John Romita Jr, seemingly liberated by the possibilities of presenting almost real violence rather than superhero ballet, and any penciller’s work looks excellent when inked by Tom Palmer. The extreme violence varies between being presented as psuedo-realistic or for comedy effect, and colourist Dean White prioritises the red. It’s not only in terms of artwork that Kick-Ass is extremely graphic. Millar’s aim is to present as near a real world scenario as possible, and that involves some choice language. Those of a sensitive nature, though, can rest assured that the potty-mouthed characters won’t be doing it again.
Kick-Ass is a well conceived page-turner hitting all the right notes, and spawning two sequels and before them a solo outing for Hit-Girl. Those familiar with Kick-Ass from the first movie ought to know that the graphic novel differs slightly, as the film was being made before the comic was completed.