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Kick-Ass #1 Review

I think this is an example of how you don’t have to like a comic book to appreciate that it is a good comic book.

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At the end of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass #1, Mark Millar talks about how fun the comic was for him. While obviously I cannot speak for the creative workings of the comic and how fun that was, I can say that I did not find this first issue fun at all. I found it kinda sad.

That said, I think it was still a well-written comic, with typically strong John Romita Jr. artwork.

The following pages (click to enlarge) give you a gist of the comic – it is a brutal look at what if ordinary people decided to become superheroes.

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We also get a look at the background of the protagonist as he decides to become a hero.


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I saw a quote somewhere where Millar wrote about how this title was specifically not a cynical comic book, and it had more warmth than a standard Millar comic, and it was all about a young man who just wants to do the right thing, no matter how much it may hurt him.

That sounds really cool to me. I just didn’t see that in this comic book. Besides a couple of nice scenes with David (our hero)’s father, I did not see any warmth in this comic. And David’s interest in being a superhero seemed to be born more out of curiosity than anything else. In addition, while David certainly did have somewhat of a personality, far too much of his characterization (in this issue, at least) seemed to be built around a string of pop culture references. You know, like “What do teenagers do nowadays?,” and throwing them all in. Hey, he mentioned downloading stuff! He watches porn on the internet!! I admire the intent, but I do not think it worked out all that well – the characterization did not seem deep enough.

Perhaps in later issues, however, it will be better.

But for this issue, it still seemed pretty cynical. We’re introduced first to a hero who dies because his wings don’t function correctly. The scenes you saw above “Get the fuck away from me, you loser. And quit staring at me in class. You’re giving me the creeps.” – that really doesn’t fit with what David says earlier, that he is just like everyone else. Millar has him say this, but then firmly ensconces him in the world of a “geek.”

Okay, enough complaining, in the end, I think this was still a good comic book.

First off, Romita’s art was excellent. He grounds the work, which is desperately needed for a comic like this. Also, his character expressions are just top rate.

Millar moves the story well, and the basic idea is a good one to follow, especially the ending, as the scene early on in the comic belies the ending – whatever happens at the end of the comic, we know that it is not the true end of the story, which is a nice bit by Millar, because otherwise, that ending would be close to pure hackery.

So yeah, I think this series has a lot of promise, especially knowing that Millar is into this idea in the longterm, and not just as a quick little thing (like Chosen), so there will be more optimism mixed in, along with more warmth. I look forward to it!

But this issue, I think was still strong enough to merit a recommendation, even if I didn’t really LIKE it all that much, as I found it way too cynical for my tastes.

Recommended.

23 Comments

I liked this issue, but at the same time, I’m getting flashbacks to Wanted. I honestly really enjoyed the first two issues of Wanted, which is why the clusterfuck of senseless sadism punctuated with rape scenes that the rest of the series turned into was especially disappointing.

Kick-Ass definitely has potential to work, but I can see a lot of the ways it could potentially go wrong as well. I’m wary about how this is going to end, but the fact that Millar claims he has at least 2 more arcs after this one planned out makes me cautiously optimistic about this endeavor.

I would’ve liked it better if the language wasn’t so harsh. Weird.

But I love JRjr’s art, and the story was alright.

” I liked this issue, but at the same time, I’m getting flashbacks to Wanted. I honestly really enjoyed the first two issues of Wanted, which is why the clusterfuck of senseless sadism punctuated with rape scenes that the rest of the series turned into was especially disappointing. ”

Agreed on the disappointment that was Wanted, but a key difference here is that Dave’s attempts to get out of his middle-class adolescent slump are met with consequences. He tries to be a costumed vigilante, and gets the living crap beaten out of him. Whereas Wesley Gibson tried to be a criminal mastermind, and succeeded without much struggle.

In many ways, this is like an improved version of Wanted’s themes, especially with JR Jr.’s art ( much more suitable to the story than the glossier imagery of JG Jones ).

I saw a quote somewhere where Millar wrote about how this title was specifically not a cynical comic book, and it had more warmth than a standard Millar comic, and it was all about a young man who just wants to do the right thing, no matter how much it may hurt him.

Millar must be mixing drinks again.

Walking Tall was a movie about a young man who just wanted to do the right thing, no matter how much it hurt.

Kick-Ass was just sad.

It reminded me of that time LUCAS quit the Football team to become a Super-Hero…

[Cue “FAMILY GUY” Movie-like Parody Sequence… NOW!]

i find it interesting that you feel the need to state you’re being objective in your review

i find it interesting that you feel the need to state you’re being objective in your review

It was something I was discussing the other day (in this entry), and I found it interesting that I found an example of it so soon after bringing it up (that is, a comic that I thought was good that I didn’t particularly like).

You know, I really, really WANT to like Millar’s books, but he makes it hard to lose myself in the stories, because so many of the characters share the same sarcastic, cynical bitter voice. Women are particularly given short shrift in Millar’s work, since they almost all portrayed as shrewish, emasculating harpies. The little girl belittling the protagonist in the sample above could easily be Betty Banner in the Ultimates, Wesley Gibson’s African-American boss or girlfriend Lisa in Wanted, the Doll-Master’s wife in Wanted, or the elementary school teacher in The Fantastic Four. The dialogue is virtually interchangeable.

I think Sue Storm, in either the 616 or Ultimate universe, may be his only consistently positive portrayal of a woman.

Stop trying to shock us, Mark. We know you can be a better writer than that.

I picked the comic up yesterday & haven’t yet had a chance to read it … but am I straying into Cronin-esque (or is it Hatcher-esque? All of a sudden, all their reviews are blurring together for me …) fuddy-duddy territory when I remark that this may well be the worst damned title for a comic I can think of? (Of course, I skipped the ’90s, & the entirety of the ’80s, & for that matter the first few years of this decade.)

Probably Millar &/or Marvel were being, I dunno, ironic or something in going with it, but like I said, I guess I’m getting too old to get the true significance of the title.

Hey Marvel, get off my lawn!

I dunno, the dialogue still seems so artificial to me…and that takes me right out of the supposed “realism” of the execution along with the JR, Jr. art.

Just another preciously cynical Millar comic about how girls are mean to you because you’re an unassertive loser and power fantasies are silly and why are you reading this comic anyway.

Superhero comics for fans who want to pretend they’re hipper than the other superhero comics fans.

“The scenes you saw above “Get the fuck away from me, you loser. And quit staring at me in class. You’re giving me the creeps.” – that really doesn’t fit with what David says earlier, that he is just like everyone else. Millar has him say this, but then firmly ensconces him in the world of a “geek.” ”

But geeks ARE just like everyone else! It’s just that their peers in high school don’t see it that way. I don’t think there was any contradiction there (though maybe the apparent contrast was intentional); it worked for me. But I understand what you’re saying about the tone overall. I didn’t read his statements about this being less cynical, so I was fully expecting classic Millar cynicism in full effect, and sounds like that’s what he delivered. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
-r-

” Just another preciously cynical Millar comic about how girls are mean to you because you’re an unassertive loser and power fantasies are silly and why are you reading this comic anyway. ”

But given the publisher of this book and the bulk of its target audience, isn’t this an accurate statement?

” Superhero comics for fans who want to pretend they’re hipper than the other superhero comics fans. ”

It’s not so much that those fans are elitist, but that most of superhero fandom is so insistent on staying in a state of arrested maturity, that any comic which even acknowledges the profound mess that franchise superhero comics have become will be appreciated.

I admit that part of why I loved Kick-Ass was because of this mission statement, but I also think it was a dramatic improvement over the start of Wanted ( same underlying message, much more advanced execution ). Best of both worlds, IMO…

( By the way, Omar, did you get my last email, many moons ago? )

My problem with Kick-Ass is that it’s a rather pointless statement; the people it’s directed at will refuse to get it, and a smaller subset of them will mistakenly assume it’s a ratification of their hipster bona fides.

More to the point, does Millar really have nothing more interesting to say about superheroes than that they’re pre-adolescent power fantasies that some people hold on to for too long? Because I feel that sentiment is a rather reductive one, for all that it may accurately describe the worst of the superhero comic readership.

Millar’s an odd writer to me in that he’s more interested in deconstructing his audience than in doing something new with the material itself. I find him tiresome and his cynicism unilluminating most of the time, and the solutions he proposes to the problems he raises are rather dull and sometimes genuinely objectionable. He’s simply not that smart a writer.

(I’ll dig around and make sure I didn’t miss your e-mail; I don’t recall anything turning up from you for some time, though.)

Bought it last night, read it, and read it again at lunch today. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I’m not a MySpace account holder so I didn’t see the preview pages.

For the most part the art was AMAZING. The detail and sense of movement in every panel, the facial expressions and distinctive appearances for each of Dave’s friends. JRjr’s best since… DD:Man Without Fear. For once, in a new comic, I noticed and appreciated the colours. The one bad mark, though, is a complaint I’ve heard before (not i nrelation to JRjr though): the thugs just don’t look right. They’re dressed like 90s stock “gang members” – this book is set today. A relatively small gripe.

The story? I enjoyed it. I don’t agree that David is ensconsed in the world of the geek. He reads comics, sure, but nowadays that’s not enough to get you bullied. He’s un-noticed – like most people were, from my recollection of high school – and no indication’s given that he’s a Peter Parker style bookworm/science-guru/outcast.

This is meant to be a real-world take on a guy dressing in a costume and “fighting crime”. Going by the 2nd scene (testicles) and the final page (CRUNCH), I’m baffled as to how one could lead to the other.

I’ll certainly stick with it – 8/10. Enjoyed this far more than FF – much prettier too.

Also, it’s worth noting that Dave’s profile, the bands and TV shows that he likes, were taken directly from Millar’s nephew (Goo Goo Dolls – I know…), so people commenting that the characterisation was off key for the character’s age group and 2008 just got owned.

Also, it’s worth noting that Dave’s profile, the bands and TV shows that he likes, were taken directly from Millar’s nephew (Goo Goo Dolls – I know…), so people commenting that the characterisation was off key for the character’s age group and 2008 just got owned.

But Andrew, that is the criticism. I didn’t know that Millar literally DID just copy some kid’s profile, but that’s how it read – like he just threw in a bunch of pop culture references that a modern teen would be into.

It didn’t read like it flowed with the story at all, and now, thanks to your info, we know that it WASN’T natural – it was just thrown in pop culture references via Millar’s nephew.

But… doesn’t that make the character more authentic?

It’s not simply thrown in to link Millar to The Zeitgeist (like having celebrities guest appear in the Ultimates (though I’m not sure Freddie Prinze Jr was ever that kewl,and if he was, said kewlness had certainly died down by the time those issues of Ultimates came out), it’s establishing the character’s general normality.

…no?

Sure, if you consider being Mark Millar’s nephew normal :p

But… doesn’t that make the character more authentic?

It’s not simply thrown in to link Millar to The Zeitgeist (like having celebrities guest appear in the Ultimates (though I’m not sure Freddie Prinze Jr was ever that kewl,and if he was, said kewlness had certainly died down by the time those issues of Ultimates came out), it’s establishing the character’s general normality.

Fine, it makes the character more authentic, but not the story. It reads more like a bullet-point list as part of a presentation on what this character likes instead of the character’s inner monologue about the things he likes that identifies him as being like all the other kids who don’t stick out as a school jock, clown, genius, stud, or whatever else. That’s the criticism here, and it’s valid.

Remeber when they reprinted 60’s Spidey stories in Marvel Tales, and changed some of the dialogue to reference things like Chevy Chase movies?

Good times.

-R

Bit late to this comments section, but…

Kick Ass was bloody AWFUL. The art is good, as one would expect from JRjr, but the writing is just apalling. The criticisms already aired here regarding the characterisation are more than valid; the fact that the protagonist’s interests were cribbed from some real kid’s profile would provide authenticity, if it didn’t read that way. As it is, it’s just plain bad writing. Also, the idea that this concept (“what if someone tried to be a super-hero in the real world?”) is in any way new is just preposterous.

I have a couple of problems with it that haven’t been mentioned here yet:

Page 9 is taken up entirely with Dave and his stereotype buddies ruminating on why no-one’s ever tried to be a super-hero. So one can only assume that our geeky protagonist doesn’t know how to use a search engine (and that Millar doesn’t either), since ten minutes on google will tell you that actually, several people have. They usually turn up in the “and finally” jokey bit at the end of the TV news.

But my biggest gripe is about the fight scene at the end. Why, exactly, is Dave fighting with these particular youths? Are we supposed to sympathise with a guy who smacks someone in the face with a truncheon, drawing blood, apparently just for spraying graffiti? Seriously? What the fuck is up with that?

So….no brutality…sadness..unsympathetic characters
or cynicism allowed in comics? very conservative views.

LX

who said that then, Louisxxx?

They’re allowed in comics. Millar simply uses them to the point that they’ve made his writing flat and predictable, and his themes and stories rather pointless.

Flat, predictable, pointless writing is not worth defending.

Miller is a crap, overrated writer. Never like much of his stuff, from Authority to Ultimates to Civil War, tho i am surprised that his current FF is actually decent. This was not. I picked this up for the as-always gorgeous JRJ artwork. I wasn’t expecting the writing or story to be good at all, and I wasn’t disappointed. But the art…man, JRJ really is one of the best artists out there today (in my humble opinion, of course).

Am I the only one who would be interested in seeing JRJ work with Grant Morrison?

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