Kick-Ass #1 Review

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New hero, same flaws.

After three miniseries and a Hit-Girl spinoff, Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. are effectively rebooting the Kick-Ass saga at Image. While one of the more recognizable Millarworld properties, Kick-Ass has never really lived up to its potential as a story exploring what happens when ordinary people attempt to become costumed vigilantes. The hope was that a new publisher and a new protagonist might help the new Kick-Ass succeed where the original struggled. So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

The new Kick-Ass abandons nerdy high schooler Dave Lizewski in favor of Patience Lee, a recently discharged military veteran struggling to support her family. Millar and Romita deserve credit for crafting a new protagonist that differs significantly from the original. With IDW’s 30 Days of Night reboot not doing much to distinguish itself from the original, at least Kick Ass 2.0 isn’t telling the exact same story as the first series. Patience is a a character with a far different background and set of motivations.

That being said, tonally, this feels more or less identically to past Kick-Ass books. This franchise tends to accentuate Millar’s lesser tendencies as a writer. Like its predecessors, Kick-Ass prioritizes shock value, extreme violence and pop culture references over nuanced characterization. It’s difficult to actually connect with any of the characters here. Even Patience herself, despite her obvious struggles as a single mother with few job prospects, is never as sympathetic as she should be. It doesn’t help that this issue spends so little time exploring her transition from soldier to vigilante, making it feel like a very abrupt and implausible development in her life.

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While he co-created Kick-Ass, I’ve always questioned whether Romita was the right artist to bring this sort of story to life . Kick-Ass is very much about the rude intersection of superhero comics and the real world, yet there’s little about Romita’s art style that screams realism. He’s one of the clearest successors to Jack Kirby in that he’s adept at crafting colorful, larger-than-life stories full of dynamic but impossibly proportioned heroes. Seeing Romita restrain himself to a grittier, more low-key setting often feels like a square peg being shoved into a round hole. Inker/colorist Peter Steigerwald does help add a darker, harsher coat to Romita’s work, but that doesn’t do much to make the blocky figures seem more grounded in reality.

Not that Kick-Ass has ever felt particularly grounded in reality at the end of the day. For all that the book aims to show us ordinary people playing at being superheroes, the violence is often stylized and exaggerated to the point where any sense of reality is washed away. Like Hit-Girl before her, Patience is capable of truly superhuman feats of bloodshed. That only further divorces this book from reality and diminishes what should be one of its big selling points.

The Verdict

The hope was that moving Kick-Ass to a new publisher and introducing a new protagonist would be enough to kick this franchise into gear and allow it to finally start seizing on its potential. This series at least gives us a much different lead character, but in all other respects it feels like more of the same. This series is trapped in a weird middle ground between grounded superhero drama and wacky, violent romp.

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