Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ranma's Comic Review: KICK-ASS 1-3

Wow, I just finished reading these and I have to write about them. Immediately. Warning, spoilers and strong, perhaps even graphical praise ahead. If you are offended easily, I'll tell you right now, you wouldn't like this book anyway. Wuss.

I first heard about this book on G4's attack of the show. Their resident comic book geekess Blair Butler did a review of issue 3 for their Fresh Ink segment. Like many books she's recommended I wanted to check it out and this time I actually got around to doing so.

I'm very glad I did.

The concept is simple and summarized well in this issue when our protagonist asks a friend, "Why do you think nobody ever tried being a super-hero before?" This is set in the real world. Which is why I say protagonist instead of hero, because even if it does turn out he's a "hero" and saves people and makes things better, maybe it's sending a pretty bad message.

I'm not one of those psychopaths who thinks reading about violence or playing violent video games programs you to do insane things, but hey, why DO you think nobody ever tried to be a super-hero before? I mean, you'd think someone would've put on a cape, bought a police s
canner and tried to save the day. I don't think dudes in Spider-Man costumes climbing up the side of a building counts.

See? That right there is one good reason why no one has ever tried it before. Me? I don't like being stabbed. I don't think I do anyway. And that's not the worst of it for our protagonist Dave Lizewski. Before the flash back began, Dave had a car battery clamped to his testicles and shortly after this stabbing he's run over by a pair of ditzy teen girls who didn't see him until he was flipping over their windsield and just kept going.

KICK-ASS is brutal. I saw a couple images and I expected the blood shed, but I had no idea the main character was going to be the main whipping boy. To be honest, I all most didn't like it, but reading all three books in one sitting I was able to see that there's a pay off to this. That comes later though. In this first issue what we get is a kid who introduces himself by saying he's not the class jock, not the class geek, not the class anything. He's just one of those kids who exists.

His mother died, but not in any sort of comic booky way he says, "Yes, my mother died when I was fourteen years old, but she was killed by an aneurysm as opposed to a hitman. You might have hoped for a little... I WILL AVENGE YOU MOTHER! ...But the reality was more like feeling numb and playing video games while my father cried in the next room." And despite an awkward 'youth culture' including fandom of the Goo Goo Dolls (WTF?) I think the book does a good job of voicing a real teen aged kid.

Usually the bad teenager dialogue of comics doesn't bother me too much. I mean, my favorite kind of writing is the hyper-intellectual overwrought dialogue that so many people complain about not happening in real life, but still it's nice to see someone handle it well. Better yet, John Romita Jr's art enhances that real feel even more. The kids looks like KIDS. There's no bare midriff, c+ cup prosti-teens. The only cleavage is on the biology teacher he says he uh... thinks about during private times at home. And she's no bombshell.

So when he gets the crap stomped out of him by the three graffiti vandals he tries to stop I think it's that much worse. Because they do such a good job of grounding the character and making you think about him like a really normal person. It's like, "Oh my God, they're killing him!" and instead of going, "COOL!" I winced and wanted to scream, "Leave him alone!" Like I said, I all most didn't enjoy the book at first for this very reason.

In the second issue he wakes up in the hospital, wondering how he got here, lamenting the fact that he's going to have to explain to his father why he was dressed up like a "pervert" and left beaten half to death in the middle of the street. When he finds out that he was found naked, he thinks to himself, "Oh, thank God. Thank God."

One important detail I think is that he thinks with a broken back and two broken legs that he got rid of the wet suit and mask himself. I'm really hoping that Millar doesn't leave it at that. My assumption is that somebody we'll meet later did it. And hopefully an ally, not an enemy. Someone who saw him trying to fight the thugs and wanted to protect his identity.

I digress, speculation aside, the issue spends about half the time with Dave recovering from the horrible injuries he sustained. Six months all together. Six months of a young man's life wasted in bed for the most part. He talks about how stupid it was. How he can't stand to read his comic books anymore because it makes him angry. Blames them for inspiring him.

"...but who was I kidding? The beast was friggin' in me, man."

You knew it wasn't over. He's out prowling the roof tops the very next night. A good spot to work some humor in, some little girls mistake him for a rapist, pervert, flasher or all of the above and begin harassing him. He tells them to bug off, but they keep following him saying they're gonna kick his ass and stuff, which seriously made me laugh my ass off. I might have been pissed if Millar has actually had them kick his ass of course, but instead he stumbles into the middle of a gang beating. He pulls his two lead pipes off his back and shouts, "GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM!" clubbing these guys like they were baby seals!

The next five pages are so graphically brutal that I just... I had to stop for a minute to really take it all in. Some guys takes off from the gathering crowd to tell some friends to come check it out, "There's a guy dressed like a superhero fighting Puerto Ricans outside! It's fucking awesome!" And of course in our day and age, what crowd doesn't have a cell phone camera trained on everything that happens ever. Eventually the thugs don't care enough to take the beating anymore and run off. Dave has saved the day and the guy thanks him and dude with his camera phone goes, "...this is so going on YouTube."

Where the first issue made me leery of where Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. were taking the story, this issue had me bounding for the third. I had this pit in my stomach thinking that this would be some sort of sick cautionary tale of a young man who just takes and takes and takes until finally he's dead in a warehouse with jumper cables clipped to his balls. But here he gets a victory. He doesn't get off light, that's for damn sure, but he's obviously the hero he wanted to be now.

I was also very glad to see them realistically portray the injuries he suffered in the first issue. He's not out of the hospital in a month, no he's down and out for a very long time. Long enough to stew in his own misery and realize how retarded what he did was. Even if his oath to never do it again was bull shit, he made it and I wouldn't buy it for a second if he didn't.

The third issue starts off with a little World building as we see the media coverage of the YouTube clip blowing up all across the spectrum. He even gets a name, "Kick-Ass." They get back to Dave's personal life where he's found a new sense of confidence. The thrill of wearing his costume under his clothes. He's even making progress with the girl who shut him down cold in issue one.

Of course his best friend decides to clue him in. Her mother runs a shelter for batter women, and the rumor going around is that the reason Dave gets "mugged" so much is that he's turning tricks and the Johns are being rough with him.

I can't help it... I laughed like a mad man. She's his fag-hag apparently. In the modern sense. I never knew there was a traditional sense, the things you learn, right? Thanks Captain Comet! (...check out Paul Sung's interview with him over on VS Blog! AND an interview with Michael "BigSpooky" Barnes too! Links over in my blog roll.) The funniest part, is he decides he doesn't care. He'll just enjoy hanging out with her anyway it comes.

When we return to his hero career, he decides it's time to learn the age old hero tradition of leaping from roof to roof, until he sees how wide the gaps are and decides to walk street side. I'm laughing at this more than I ever would have expected too after the way the first issue went. Anyway, having set up a MySpace account for Kick-Ass Dave is going to look up some girl's ex-boyfriend and tell him to stop calling her, because it's starting to scare her.

Entering the dude's house he doesn't realize what fucking trouble he's in until it's too late. For one, unlike the girl who flashed her tits at him not five minutes ago...

These guys haven't heard about him, so the swagger his notoriety grants him is sort of neutralized. With the pepper spray his dad gave him, he gets a bit of a surprise advantage... Until the floozy breaks a champagne bottle over his back. It looks like he's in for another horrifying beat down leaving him crippled for like this time when...


This little girl in a mask comes in behind Kick-Ass and shoves a freaking sword through the ex-boyfriend guy! She then proceeded to slice and dice the loser friends like so much wet, bloody tissues.

"Okay, you cunts. Lets see what you can do."

THIS is the moment where I think the book will either have you hooked like some sort of super-crack-heroin hybrid or if you somehow made it past the first few beatings without running away screaming... You'll run away screaming.

I think you know which category I fall into. If you are not reading KICK-ASS and you have a strong stomach, you are doing a disservice to yourself to not be reading it. If they can keep up this pace, stay true to the concept and deliver on even half the potential it offers, I can see this book surviving deep into the double digits without a hitch. With two heroes in the cast now, a third can't be far behind and when or if they introduce a super villain, I expect something VERY special.

I'm happy to report that not only has is sold very well, but the movie rights have all ready been snatched up. So even if you aren't a comic reader (STU!) then you'll be able to get yourself a dose of KICK-ASS sooner or later. I'm dying for issue four and as a self promoted book only (Epic is an imprint of Marvel that doesn't get access to their PR department) I'm asking you to do your part to help get it out there. Tell people about this book. As soon as my guitar auction closes I'll even be buying copies of my own, to make sure my support shows up where it counts. In the numbers.



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