Kick-Ass #1

by

Or – “Superheroing 101 – The Basics Of Masked Adventuring.”

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Sometimes, you review a book out of love.  Sometimes you review a book out of loyalty.  Sometimes, you review a book because it’s the be-all, end-all crossover that will change everything.

This one  threatened to smack me with a pipe wrench if I didn’t…

KA1.jpgPreviously, on Kick-Ass:  Nothin.’  This is issue 1, duh?  However, the back cover copy of Kick-Ass #1 touts the book as coming from “The Writer of Civil War and The Artist of World War Hulk.”  As I read those words, all I could think of was Beavis with a shirt over his head, saying “Are you THREATENING me?”  Heh.  In any case, the hype on this book has been both pervasive and interesting.  Icon is Marvel’s creator-owned imprint, and Mark Millar (pronounced, for those interested, “Miller” just like Frank, and not “Millarrrrr” just like a pirate of the high seas) makes no bones about the fact that part of his creative deal means that HE has to handle advertising for the book.  Thus, Mark has embarked on a viral marketing campaign for this title, to get it in the public eye, and if you’ve ever read Mark, he doesn’t do “subtle.”  For mostly that reason, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what this title is all about, and I have to tell you: I am not disappointed.

I don’t know how many of you were around in 1986 for the inaugural salvo of books that began the “New Universe” but those who were may share my echoes of recognition here (and I mean that in a good way, naysayers) as Kick-Ass opens.  “I always wondered why nobody did it before me…” says our invisible narrator, as a young man puts on a mask and wings, and prepares to fly for the first time. “C’mon.  Be honest with yourself.  We all planned to be a superhero at some point in our lives.”  The young hero leaps off the side of the building, and cries “Wings to manual…” before realizing that something wasn’t working.  Smashing through the roof of a parked car, he leaves himself a bloody smear, broken amidst shattered glass and warped metal.

“That wasn’t me, by the way,” says the narrator.  Heh… I love Mark Millar.  “I’m the guy with the electrodes attached to his testicles.”  HA!  Did I mention that I love Mark Millar?  The narrator realizes that he’s getting ahead of himself, and prepares to tell us the “Secret Origin of Dave Lizewski.”  Dave sits in class, remarking to himself that he’s not anything special, spending his time illegally downloading or engaging of self-abuse to thoughts of his biology teacher.  He remembers how his mother died years ago, but rather than a Bruce Wayne moment (beautifully rendered in his imagination by Romita) he remembers playing a lot of video games and not talking to his father. 

After the weekly comic shop trip, he and several of his geek friends bond over the wonder of Joss Whedon’s X-Men and the comparisons of movie Spider-Man to comic book Spider-Man, when he suddenly wonders why no one has ever TRIED to be a superhero before…  His friends tell him it’s because nobody’s been that STUPID before, but not long afterwards, Dave puts on his own mask, realizing that “it didn’t take a trauma to make you wear a mask…  or cosmic rays or a power ring… just the perfect combination of loneliness and despair. 

Dave starts walking “patrol” at night in his wetsuit costume (bought on eBay, I might add) and working out in the gym, until he finally finds a fight.  Three toughs are beating on a kid, and he just wades into them before quickly being kicked in the privates and beaten down.  One of the kids knifes him right in the chest, and runs away…  “You have to remember,” thinks Dave, “this was long before the others showed up.”  Hold on a second…  Now, that’s intriguing.  Dave staggers out of the parking lot and into the path of an oncoming car, bouncing off the hood and landing in the street.  “Two broken legs, my spine crushed, and dressed like a #&$*ing pervert.  My dad was going to kill me.”  Heh.  I love Mark Millar….

The whole ‘real-life superhero’ story has been done before, but I can’t remember the last time it was done with this kind of style.  Romita’s work combines the kineticism that will make the superheroics work with a kind of realism that makes you believe the story of a skinny kid who imagines his top-heavy teacher naked and won’t ever talk to his dad about anything.  With enough tantalizing hints about what comes next (the reference to the others, as well as clearly seeing Dave in the future getting tortured) I’m really interested to see where this is going.  Mark manages to give us a protagonist who we simultaneously like, pity, envy, and want to smack, a balance that’s very difficult to pull off.  Kick-Ass #1 ranks a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars, a very strong showing for a first issue, and one of the most intriguing starts for a series in recent memory.

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