Or – “Is Shock Value The Same As Just Plain Value?” 


Kick-Ass is one of those books that has been something of a guilty pleasure for me.  Each issue takes us through the full litany of curse-words, high school humiliation, some sexual topics, and a heapin’ helpin’ of swift and blinding violence.  When last issue ended with or main character getting saved by what looked like a nine year old girl, I expected to be going on and on about the use of cute kids in jeopardy for cheap effect.  ‘Course, when the girl murdered two people on panel in seconds, things kinda got turned on their head, but still, the point is this: There’s something unsettlingly liberating about it all…

KA1.jpgPreviously, on Kick-Ass:  Dave Lizewski is a character we all know, in one way or another: comic geek without much else going for him, no girlfriend, no real prospects, not a sporto, not a spaz, not a princess, not a basket case, not a criminal.  Just a kid.  And being a kid, he had the very stupid idea of becoming a superhero…  and got beaten within an inch of his life.  Months of therapy, surgery, and jackassery followed, and Dave came within inches of never walking again.  So, being an idiot teenager, he immediately did it again, saved a guy’s life and became an internet phenomenon.  Last issue, he responded to a letter asking for help, and nearly got killed again, before the aforementioned pre-teen girl sliced and diced several thugs and showed no mercy doing so.  Looks like Dave’s ever-shifting luck has fallen again on the side of “ridiculously fortunate…”

The first page of the issue is a splash of the little girl impaling another idiot through the skull, then kicking him in the chest to dislodge her weapon from his brain pan.  “She was like John Rambo meets Polly Pocket,” marvels Dave, as she advances on two more tough guys, cutting the legs off one idiot, then slicing the arms off a second.  A girl who looks to be a prostitute crawls towards the door in tears, but the tiny assassin snarls, “Where the hell are YOU going, @$$hole?  Off to phone your lawyer?  Hoping someone cares about your underpriveleged childhood?”  The hooker desperately tries to undo the bolts on the door, but we suddenly cut to the outside of the apartment, as two bloody blades pierce the door from within.  She turns to Kickass, and he threatens her with his mace, but she points out that they’re on the same side.  “Us superheroes gotta stick together.”  He follows her up to the roof, watching as she leaps to the next rooftop, athletically landing at the feet of a bulky man in a bulletproof costume.  She greets him as Big Daddy, and he caller her Hit-Girl, and Kick-Ass… has no idea what’s going on.

He realizes that compared to Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, he’s a rank amateur, and his actions would have left him dead if she hadn’t hacked up his assailants.  Dave goes home, and panics, knowing that every car door is a horde of cops coming to get him, but they never doo.  Days pass, and no one seems to notice the loss of a roomful of drug-addled hooligans.  He calls the girlfriend who sent him on his mission, and tells her that he had nothing to do with the deaths, and she laughs.  “Relax, honey.  I gotcha.  The cops don’t need to know our little secret.  You and I never even had this conversation, right?”  Dave tries to find the girl and her partner, but finds only that he’s sparkied a whole internet subculture of poseurs, sort of a masked 4chan.  He finds himself drifting through his life, only noticing when the girl he wants talks to him, and when he finds out that one of the kids at his comic shop is the son of local gangster Johnny G.  We meet Johnny immediately after, and find that he, of all people, has noticed the murders, and that he considers Kick-ass and the other vigilantes to be their first target.  He wonders where his man Cheadle is, and we cut to Cheadle, in his car, upside down in a crusher, having just spilled his guts to Big Daddy.  Hit-Girl pushes a button and Cheadle begs and screams as he and his car are crushed nothingness.  “Wotta #&$@in douche,” she remarks, with a smile on her face…

I don’t know precisely what’s going on in this issue, but that’s okay.  It actually works for the story, as Kick-Ass doesn’t know either, and the narrative conveys that well.  The mystery of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy looks like it may be the step past the whole “coming of age in a wetsuit” business into a story with some real-world consequences, (though, I suppose having your spine broken and relearning how to walk is a consequence) but I have to say that the pain of watching Dave pretend to be gay to get a girl (Huh?) is more worse than that of all the decapitations, disembowelings and car-crusher-murders combined.  John Romita’s art is as detailed as ever, giving us characters that are believable for their age and general demeanor (Hit-Girl, f’rinstance, looks like a ten year old girl, albeit a ten-year-old girl with acrobatic skills and a penchant for chopping off limbs) and handling action sequences with aplomb.  Mark Millar crafts a fun story, about which my only complaint was that this issue isn’t a really satisfying chunk of story.  Yes, it’s nice, but it picks up in mid-fight, and ends on what feels like a very odd not, especially for a book that’s ostensibly about Kick-Ass and not his two new competitor/brothers-in-capes.  Still, if your greatest complaint is that you wanted more of the stuff you got, you can’t have gone too far wrong with a purchase.  Kick-Ass #4 earns an above-average 3.5 out of 5 stars, making me wonder where this whole “intarweb masked man phenomenon” is going.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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