Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr
|Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A rollicking graphic adventure, going back to basics perhaps too far, but still adding much that's new and fresh. The Hollywood adaptation's success proves to be a very small surprise indeed.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: March 2010|
|Publisher: Titan Books Ltd|
Meet Dave. The average Joe personified, he sits at home with his internet connection, his comics collection, his dad, and very little contact with anyone else. He is a typical loner teenager, nearly friendless, wears glasses at school - especially around the hot, mature biology teacher who for some reason seems to have maths sums on her blackboard... Until one day he decides to emulate the comics in his collection. The only superheroes in his world are those whose colourful adventures he follows on the page - why not get his own costume mucked up, and go and fight crime?
Well, you might be able to see the problems in that. He is not the regular person to become a superhero - he has no compelling back story, no gadgetry, no mastery of anything except some sticks now and again. His very first attempt at being a vigilante leaves him naked (don't ask) and barely alive. But it might just be worth it when he becomes a Youtube star as a result, his new personality's MySpace page gets hit after hit, and it's proven there is a need for a real-life superhero.
That superhero is still not likely to be Dave, however - but anyone in any contact with the movie version of this graphic novel will know of one other it might be - an exceedingly foul-mouthed, ultra-violent ten year old girl.
Now I don't like having to get my graphic novels the hard way from the library - wait years and years until a hit movie is made from them, sending the book into the top ten sellers and causing an obligatory purchase from the powers that be. It ain't gonna happen with Cable and Deadpool #7 any time soon, either. But with this quality volume it is obvious why it happened on this occasion.
The comic started in 2008, and I believe this to have been the shortest gestation yet between source material being published and the cinema version being released. That mostly is down to our author, Mark Millar, providing us with a comical and violent look at comic life and stereotypes. The self-referential side of things is worn lightly, but is only obvious - who else to try and become a superhero than a kid who is already a fan of them? Dave's fandom is personified by him and his loser friends, and their reaction to comics is spot-on. Similarly his need for internet fame, and use of email cries for help instead of strolling the roof-tops looking for trouble, is one of many perfect touches.
Unfortunately I'm too artless to say just what those on the pictorial side have done to make this stand out, but stand out it does. The colours are muted in some way, underscoring the flashy comic-book life Dave aspires to, so that in his brightest successes, or darkest moments, the artwork looks neither too glossy nor too gloomy. It's brilliant.
There are small aspects of this book that lose it five stars in my mind - as up-to-date and with-it Dave's life is, it is still an origin story disguising itself as being in a world without origin stories. The drip-drip of Dave into the world he mistakenly wants to enter, where he will be called on to counteract the real criminals and Mafia bosses is a little obvious. I could say the same of the character of Hit-Girl, the ten-year old bloodthirsty girl, but I'd be shunned from the world of graphic novels forever if I said it was a bit 'easy', so I won't.
This then is a book that does little to change the format - the biggest alteration is the complete avoidance of writing in the sound FX of the "blam"s of collisions and the "bam! bam!"s of the countless bullets fired herein. But inasmuch as it turns the comic world's tropes so breezily, humorously and correctly deftly on its head, while never becoming arch, this book is a great success. Whether this is your introduction to this title, or a purchase as a souvenir of the movie, this will stay on your shelves for a long time, and deserve many readings. I have to recommend it.
Other teens find themselves bearing super-powered tropes in a totally different style in the brilliant Demo by Brian Wood.
You can read more book reviews or buy Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr at Amazon.com.
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