Friday, January 23, 2009

Kick-Ass: The worst comic book ever printed?

And in a world where "All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder" continues to see print, that’s saying a lot.

Two things will forever make me very suspicious of picking up a comic book, from this moment forward:

1 – When I learn that a comic is in the works as a film, one month after the first issue is released; there’s something disingenuous when a comic is created seemingly for nothing more than to cash in on Hollywood’s growing interest in all things four color; and,

2 – When Mark Millar is one of the creators; remember the last page of "Wanted" ("And this is my face, while I’m fucking you in the ass")? Yeah, what if the movie had ended with that?

I picked up issue 5 of "Kick-Ass" the other day, and it will be the last issue of this wretched story that I pick up. I probably won’t bother with the film when that comes out, either, much like I didn’t bother with "Wanted." This story, this writing, this concept is so atrociously bad and poorly developed, I openly weep for the future of comics as a medium, that this thing is consistently a top seller with each issue released.

I share with you now the official synopsis from Marvel Comics of this title’s first issue, so we have some perspective of what we’re about to discuss:

"The greatest super hero comic of all-time is finally here. WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE's team of MARK MILLAR (CIVIL WAR) and JOHN ROMITA JR. (WORLD WAR HULK) reunite for the best new book of the 21st century. Have you ever wanted to be a super hero? Dreamed of donning a mask and just heading outside to some kick-ass? Well, this is the book for you--the comic that starts where other super hero books draw the line. KICK-ASS is realistic super heroes taken to the next level. Miss out and you're an idiot!"

Okay. This is not "the greatest super hero comic of all-time (sic)". I’ve never dreamed of "heading outside to some kick-ass" (sic). I appreciate that the concept is to visualize a superhero paradigm in a realistic setting, but ... well, we’ll get there. And trust me, if you miss out on this comic, you’re far from being an idiot.

Issue one introduces us to Dave Lizewski, a fifteen year old who dorks out over comics, science fiction, horror, and the like. We get to see his geek life, his geek dad, his geek friends, his geek school, and his geek dreams that superheroes should be a reality. While his friends balk at this idea, Dave takes it upon himself to see this done. With no training, a strong sense of smug assuredness in his mission, and a diver’s wetsuit, he patrols the streets and happens upon his first crime. Expectedly, he fucks up, and gets fucked up; his first attempt at stopping a crime ends with him stabbed and run over by a car driven by some of his female classmates.

Issue two starts with lil’ Dave in the hospital; he attributes his broken body to a mugging. He receives treatment for his wounds the likes of which couldn’t possibly be covered by his skid row dad’s insurance. Then, a few weeks later(!), when he leaves the hospital and convalesces into full recovery(!!), he goes back to fighting criminals with two batons(!!!), pepper spray(!!!!), and his ongoing sense of judgmental self-righteousness. Even better, he appears to suffer no lingering after effects of his horrendous injuries, which include but aren’t limited to broken bones, a collapsed lung, and a smashed skull.

Issue three meanders along, with the newly dubbed “Kick-Ass” (sigh) offering his crime-fighting services to anyone in need; he does this by keeping a MySpace account – I shit you not! – open for people to reach him. If the A-Team had this kind of set-up, they’d ... well, they’d have been captured within days, instead of successfully eluding military police for five seasons.

Kick-Ass answers a request from a woman who is sick of her boyfriend whuppin’ dat azz on the regular; Mr. Ass in turn seeks him out and confronts him at his apartment. Boyfriend don’t like this, so he, his homeboys, and his homegirls go to work decimating Kick-Ass.

And here’s where the problem begins. We are introduced to Hit Girl, a presumably eight year old girl, wielding twin samurai swords like a ninjitsu champ, and calling people "motherfuckers" while she lops off skullcaps and eviscerates major organs, all with an impish smile while she's drenched in blood and innards that are now outtards. Did I mention that this character looks like she's eight?

Issue four is more of a low key issue, as Kick-Ass officially meets Hit Girl and her partner, Big Daddy – hm, could they possibly be a father-daughter duo? Is Millar seriously setting this up as a mystery? – and while he’s left pondering the conflicts between his superhero job and his high school life, the “Mob” (sure, why not, since we’ve suspended disbelief this far?) are zeroing in on targeting Kick-Ass for ... something that’s not quite clear, since Kick-Ass has done nothing to this point that would be construed as being heroic, nor having done any significant damage to ne’er-do-wells in his community, much less having interrupted any "Mob" proceedings.

Issue five begins very awkwardly; it felt like I had missed a few issues, until I realized that several weeks have passed in the story, a point alluded to in a very small sentence. Apparently, over the course of this sentence, a hero named Red Mist has taken cue from Kick-Ass and become a vigilante too, and has eeked out quite the career of it, too. Their paths cross, they realize that they have a lot in common (Red Mist plays Danny Elfman while on patrol ... Jesus Christ!), and they have a “team-up.” However, this goes to shit quickly when they happen upon a tenement fire, and they rush in to save an overweight cat in a hamster cage … true story, swear to god! And when Kick-Ass escapes within an inch of his life, we are met with the fantastic crime-fighting duo of Hit Girl and Big Daddy.

And this is the point that I’ve just lost all interest in this book, its story, its characters, its direction, and anything having to do with it. In fact, that this title exists, along with all the goodwill that was decimated by the Secret Invasion storyline (a multipart megacrossover event spun out of a multipart megacrossover event, that ends with … the start of a multipart megacrossover event), has me crossing off ALL Marvel titles on my hold list at Planet Comics.

Millar is supposed to be some kind of special among these new gods of comics writing, right up there with Ennis, Ellis, Morrison, and the like. A nip around Wikipedia to scope out other works of Millar uncover only “Civil War,” “The Authority,” and “Superman: Red Son” as notable, among a list of random fill-ins for storylines or ongoing stints on titles that ultimately end up as poof. I mean, "Trouble?" Really? ”Trouble?”

I’ve come to believe, and I base this on the high sales of “Kick-Ass,” that comics have become the printed equivalent of movies. That is, apparently you can put anything out there, and regardless of the critical response, someone is likely to pay money to be exposed to it. Wasn’t it "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" that knocked "Dark Knight Returns" from the #1 box office spot it had held for several weeks?

Congratulations, Mark Millar, you have, like your "Wanted" protagonist, fucked me in the ass again, this time to the tune of five issues. But no more, and if I can do anything to steer people further away from this shitty tripe that passes for sequential graphic entertainment – which really only fits two of those three descriptors in that it is graphics laid out in a sequential format ... but it’s far from entertaining – then I’m probably guaranteeing myself a seat in Paradise.

1 comment:

Rev. Joshua said...

This sounds like a terrible idea that you made up to sully Millar's sterling reputation, but Millar doesn't really have one. "Civil War" was fucking dumb and "Superman: Red Son" isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. It's a cool premise, but a lot of convoluted plot lines. And I believe the Great Ennis has already started on a title of realistic super-heroes in "the Boys." Unless by super-heroes Marvel means "mentally imbalanced clowns with no super powers playing dress-up" which Ben Edlund already covered years ago.