Artificial Continuum

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kick Ass is sort of a big deal right now. With lots of publicity, and a movie being released this Friday, the green suited atypical hero is now as much a star as he is in his graphic novel. However, is this new attention deserving? How does the Kick Ass graphic novel measure up? I'll just have to tell you.

Kick Ass follows Dave Lizewski, an overall loser teenager, who spends his days reading comics, watching porn, and lusting over classmates and students. Being the geek he is, Dave comes to the realization one day that being a superhero cannot be as hard as it seems. Buying a wetsuit and a pair of nunchucks, Dave goes out to fight crime. Several surgeries and gory fights later, Dave's alter-ego ,Kick Ass, becomes an internet star, inspiring hundreds of geeks the world over. While Dave struggles to balance his own disfunctional life, and his new found stardom, he runs across other heroes. Among them the mysterious and violent Big Daddy and Hitgirl, and the smooth and rich Red Mist. As his world becomes more and more complicated, Dave finds himself over his head in a world filled with violent crime leaders.

Kick Ass is written Mark Millar (Civil War) and drawn by John Romita Jr (World War Hulk). Its unique approach to the superhero genre is interesting and refreshing at best, and tiring and frantic at worst. Kick Ass excels at telling a satirical and cynical superhero tail. Its wry sense of humor, and gritty sense of realism are a rarity in modern comics. The novel is also usually great at straying from the typical superhero cliches that often bog down the storyline.

However, some of the most lauded and talked about aspects of the controversial novel area also some of its most distracting. Kick Ass's characters do not shy away from extreme acts of violence or vulgarity. While initially jarring and refreshing, the over the top aspects of the book eventually lose what makes them interesting and just become boring. At times it seems as if Milar and Romita Jr are just trying too hard to defy convention, and the book suffers. The later act of the book falls apart, dragged down by the need for over the top action and gore. This seems hypocritical to the point of Kick Ass's ultrarealistic approach and actually feels cliched.

There are also aspects of the writing that bother me. Like mentioned earlier, the later act of the book falls apart falling into cliches that the book seems desperate to avoid. The story especially sputters when concering the characters Big Daddy and Hit Girl. The novel never seems able to make a decision on what the motivations for these characters, and the origin they eventually fall upon is just plain dumb. It defies conventional logic, and doesn't make sense. However, this is a shame because Hit Girl is established early on as being one of the more interesting characters in the novel. Her big emotional payoff at the end of the novel also misses the mark. It feels tact on and misses the necessary undertones it should have. Instead it takes a back seat to vulgarity and action.

The art style is also a mix. While sometimes delightfully minimalistic, it other times seems awkward and lazy.

However,despite these complaints, Kick Ass is still a mostly well written and interesting book. It is different enough to set it apart from the crowd, but overall misses the mark in alot of areas. This is depressing because if Kick Ass stuck to the potential it had in its earlier segments it could have been truly great.

Score: B+


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