Sunday, 21 November 2010

Review; Kick-Ass The Graphic Novel

In case you’ve not seen the film or read one of the versions of the comic, Kick Ass tells the story of young comic fan, Dave Lizewski who, on a whim one day, decides to give being a superhero a try. However, this is the ‘real world’ and Kick Ass, Dave’s alter-ego, hasn’t any superpowers and often has trouble finding any crimes to foil. When eventually he encounters some thugs, he receives the beating of his life from which he barely survives, but this doesn’t stop him from continuing his hobby. Eventually, his crazy antics capture the imagination of the internet, expose him to other, less stable, ‘superheroes’, and get him into real life-threatening situations.

As you may know from my reviews of CLiNT and 2000 AD, I have had a soft spot for Mark Millar’s work since he wrote Saviour for small, independent publisher Trident in 1990. Currently, he’s going through a phase few, if any, comic creators get, or want, to experience. After years of writing corporate characters he now seems to be focusing on creator owned superhero -themed projects with an eye on selling them onto the Hollywood movie machine as quick as possible. One of Millar’s strengths has always been coming up with a strong spin on a genre he’s familiar with and then turning that into a series that’s both contemporary and mythic. Superheroes are now so established to the movie going public that anyone who can, at least superficially, subvert the expectations of the genre and yet maintain its dynamics is going to be in demand.

Kick Ass isn’t what it’s sold to you as, though, but then anything Millar writes rarely is. It’s not a superhero comic set in the ‘real world’, Hit Girl’s fighting style is one example that discounts that claim, and even if it was it wouldn’t be the first, see Dan Clowes’ Death Ray as a good earlier example of one that is. I’m not even sure that it rewrites the rules of the genre; after all it does what Stan Lee did with the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in the sixties but with adult language and sexual references. The secret to enjoying a comic written by Millar, I have learned, is to ignore all of the hyperbole he brings to the project.

Kick Ass is helped significantly by artist John Romita Jnr whose fast style gives the story a kinetic energy and brutality that other artists Millar tends to work with might have slowed down and cleaned up. There’s a real sense of getting down and dirty with these street level superheroes while Kick Ass’ brawls reek of desperation. It’s great to me that this long time comic artist’s work is potentially being seen by a new audience flocking here because of the film’s success.

I love Kick Ass but mainly for this reason: Around eighteen months ago, I picked up the first six issues of the original series from a comic fair, all first prints, for 50p each. Then, around about a month before the movie’s release, I sold those comics on eBay for nearly £50. Then, six weeks ago, I picked up this copy of The Graphic Novel from The Works for £3.99, it having an original retail price of £9.99. As any financially astute comic reader will tell you, this sort of profiteering from the medium is very rare these days.

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