Posted by: Graeme McMillan on March 3, 2008
There is, I guess, something to be said for consistency of vision. For example, that’s probably the best thing about KICK-ASS #1, which otherwise could be easily described as “everything you’ve already read by Mark Millar in one comic”. Never mind his by-now-traditional unrealistic dialogue that mistakes unpleasantness and swearing for realism; there’s actual thematic threads in here from his other books, not least of which is Millar’s favorite “watching lead character transcend reality, which is mundane and soul-destroying,” this time managed through the power of self-belief and beating up black guys (Am I the only person who got nervous that the first thing the character did as a superhero was go out, find three black kids and call them “homos”? I can’t tell if I was meant to take that as an example that the main character is a nervous white kid with issues or that the writer was one, to be honest).
It’s definitely the ultimate Mark Millar comic, in the same way that The Invisibles remains the ultimate Grant Morrison comic – Something that sums up, demonstrates and exaggerates all of his writerly fetishes and ticks, but without the self-awareness (or, perhaps, the demonstrated self-awareness) that Morrison brought to his series. It’s almost as if Millar sat down and tried to write some genetically-engineered mutant version of everything he’s done before: Want to see Chosen’s unassuming teen protagonist discover the great things that he’s unwittingly destined for, but for those great things to be laced with Wanted’s self-conscious depressive “grim and gritty realism”? Want to see the random pop-cultural references that made The Ultimates so up-to-the-six-months-ago (Seriously, what was with that “I say that as Buffy fan numero uno” scene? What kid anywhere would call themselves anything “numero uno”?)? Want to see the weird, naïve belief in the power of superheroes from Superman Adventures? It’s all in here! And it all plays together relatively well, but none of it is interesting – It’s all just dully nasty, like Michael Jackson had decided to remake “Fight Club,” but make it about super-heroes; we’ve seen it before and there’s no new here to make us care this time around.
(The art by John Romita Jr. is nice enough, but it’s almost too comic-booky for the story that they seem to want to tell – I can’t really buy into the idea that the beating is anything other than familiar cartoon violence, because it just looks like Peter Parker being beaten up really badly by one of his villains. Again, I don’t know if that’s intentional, or whether that confusion is acting against the idea of the book.)
Overall, though, how you feel about Millar will dictate how you feel about the book. If you love everything he’s done, then chances are you’ll love it. Otherwise, it’s just Eh.