Current Reviews


Kick-Ass #3

Posted: Tuesday, June 3, 2008
By: Ariel Carmona Jr./David Wallace

Mark Millar
John Romita Jr. (p), Tom Palmer (i), Dean White (colours)
Marvel Comics/Icon
Editor's Note: Kick-Ass #3 arrives in stores Wednesday, June 4.

Ariel Carmona Jr.: 4 Bullets
Dave Wallace: 4 Bullets

Ariel Carmona Jr. 4 Bullets

We've certainly come a long way from the days in which the Comics Code Authority refused to stamp their seal of approval on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man because it contained a reference to drug use.

I don't believe that historic storyline of Spider-Man actually depicted drug use. Rather it alluded to it, but that is just one of the elements which make Mark Millar's Kick-Ass comic book different; it seems hell bent on telling a real life story with all the facets of modern life, going as far as including a panel in which a guy smoking a joint and a dude inhaling the contents of a bong are both prominently displayed. Then again, how else to convey the fact these were some bad mothers which our protagonist was getting involved with?

Yet, let's start at the beginning. After all, when we left off last issue, our hero had just been beaten to a blood pulp again by a bad gang of Puerto Ricans in the mean streets of New York and someone captured the whole thing and posted it on the internet. This issue deals with the aftermath and with Kick Ass' rising popularity both in school and on the street as a result of the internet posting. Millar is smart to reference modern technology's influence on young people. After all, everybody knows that the younger generations-- the same demographic which presumably reads comics--are foregoing traditional media outlets like television and newspapers for the internet and using their iphones and other hand held devices to get their fix of what's new and important to them. Millar's allusions to the real world and the increasingly rapid changing face of technology are both smart and relevant and add another layer of realism to his already gritty style of storytelling.

Our man's treatment by the hottest girl on school is also a fascinating plot point as we are led to believe that his rising popularity also is the cause of her admiration. Yet the reader finds out along with Kick Ass that there are other embarrassing reasons for her sudden change of heart.

Another major aspect of this comic is the violence depicted within its covers. This book isn't called Kick Ass for nothing. The second half of the book after our man makes his way to Eddie's apartment to confront him is chock full of the graphic violence this comic has featured in every issue. The surprising element is the source of the violence, as our main man gets himself in a deep hole, someone else comes to the rescue and it's the biggest "Oh shit" moment of the entire comics. I certainly didn't see it coming.

Overall, Romita Jr.'s artwork once again perfectly blends with Millar's narrative and the close ups work as well as the big panels which render the action with perfect kinetic precision and dynamic detail. I also love that Kick Ass has been given a great looking distinctive costume which also keeps pace with the realistic and practical tone of his self imposed mission.

Final word: This comic's most appealing aspect may be its sense of unpredictability. Within the framework set up in Millar's realistic world devoid of fictional Marvel heroes, the super hero genre conventions are both examined and turned on their head. This comic always guarantees a great read and the artwork by Romita Jr. is always fluid, detailed and exciting.

Dave Wallace: 4 Bullets

I have to give credit to Mark Millar for moving the story of Kick-Ass forwards at a fairly brisk pace. This issue quickly introduces the consequences of last issue's cliffhanger, jumping forwards in time to see how Dave Lizewski's vigilante activities--captured on video by a bystander at the end of the previous issue--have turned him into a minor celebrity. It's a development that feels logical and organic, and one that promises to offer Millar a chance to comment on celebrity culture and the increasingly blurry line between news and entertainment. One of the strengths of the book has been its refusal to let fantastical elements intrude on its real-world setting, allowing it to feel closer to our world than most superhero comics, so that this kind of commentary doesn't feel out-of-place or irrelevant. By keeping his series firmly rooted in reality, Millar has also managed to make the superhero phenomenon feel fairly fresh and new, and he's managed to present a fairly original take on how superheroes might work in the real world that make this an interesting read for fans of the genre.

One of the other strengths of Kick-Ass has been that it's a genuinely funny book. I'm not just talking about the black humour that comes from seeing a deluded wannabe superhero constantly get beaten up by his enemies: although that's fun to an extent, it would quickly become repetitive if that's all the book had to offer. Rather than relying on shock value alone, though, there's also some gentler (but no less enjoyable) humour to be found in the pages of the book too. This issue, Dave Lizewski discovers the reasons behind his new-found popularity with the fairer sex (an amusing development that I won't spoil here), and there's an equally enjoyable sequence where Dave decides to practice leaping from rooftop to rooftop, just like his comicbook idols - and finds that it's not as easy as he expected.

As with last week's opening issue of Marvel 1985, I was also struck by the surprisingly tender moments that Millar has managed to weave into his story. Whilst he's not known for being the most subtle writer in the world, he's managed to create a warm father-son relationship for both of his young heroes, and it's nice to see the excessive violence and black comedy of this book underpinned by a small amount of authentic emotional content.

John Romita Jr.'s artwork is as strong here as it was in previous issues. I guess that you either enjoy Romita's style or you don't, but personally, he's one of my favourite superhero artists, and I'm enjoying seeing his chunky, dynamic visuals bring Millar's story to life. Whilst he doesn't shy away from the depiction of extreme violence during the unflinching action sequences, it's in the smaller moments that I find his work most impressive. The quiet shots of "Kick-Ass" creeping around urban areas in his gaudy green costume are goofy enough that they retain the character's ridiculous edge, whilst also being cool enough that you could just about believe that "Kick-Ass" could become such a fêted celebrity. Romita's artwork also manages to pack a lot of information into a small space (a good example is the montage of scenes featuring Dave and his "girlfriend"), and that's useful for a story that seems to be making an effort to stay reasonably fast-paced and free of flab.

If there's one criticism that I have of this book, it's that the formula is starting to become a little obvious: Dave's self-deluding high-school fantasies build up his confidence to the point where he's ready to go out and fight crime, only to have his plans backfire with violent and/or embarrassing consequences. However, this issue suggests that Millar is keen to shake up that formula, with a celebrity subplot that should become more interesting as the book progresses, and a final few pages that introduce a new player into the mix. The cliffhanger has me particularly interested to read more, upping the violence quotient considerably, and adding a new dimension to Dave's quest to become a real-life superhero.

One final praiseworthy element of the book is the afterword by Millar that appears at the end of each issue. Whilst it's not exactly packed with information--it's certainly not at the same level as the backmatter that can be found in titles like Fell, Criminal or Casanova, for example--it's a good start, and it's nice to see a writer make an effort to engage with his audience in this manner.

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