What can I say? Cresting the wave of my mid-thirties into my later-thirties I have found my comic book sensibilities now are probably closer to where they were 25-30 years ago than say 15 years ago. Life is funny that way, isn't it? These days I want heroic heroes, and villainous villains. I generally don't want an unrelenting grim and gritty mixing of the two. I don't seek for gratuitous violence, sex or profanity in my comic books. I generally want to read comic books that I could show my six or ten year old self. Most of the time with modern comic books, it just isn't the case.
So of course in this situation, wanting cleaner, simpler comic books on the whole, Kick-Ass places me in a dichotomous situation: it is filthy, ultra-violent and in very bad taste. And I love it for that. Hats off to Mark Millar (writer; also Ultimates and Wanted) and John Romita Jr. (artists; too many Marvel comic books too count).
The movie version has been described as Superbad meets Watchmen, and I get that kind of short-hand description. The comic book would equally well wear it. I love Kick-Ass in that it set out to be something and was clear about it from the start. No pretences. This is violence and profanity cranked up to 11 ('one higher, because where do you go when you reach 10?' to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel). The book is honest about that, which I am cool with - what I am not cool with is the silver-age resurgence elsewhere dressed up with shock-tactic story-telling (which is happening in far too many comic books that I read), but that isn't an issue with Kick-Ass.
The book is funny, and it is a well-crafted read, with decent structure starting as it does in media res while entertaining with the back story of how a hapless teen becomes an Internet and cultural sensation while suffering all manner of violent incident. The structural strengths were more apparent on re-reading, as I originally read it episodically and the series met with a few delays as it progressed, disrupting the flow.
Kick-Ass does not present the real-world as some super-hero comics would like to attempt to do (and usually fail for trying), or even deconstruct the genre in the same way that a book like Watchmen did. No this is something else. Kick-Ass is about a big simple idea, which is used to look at the rise of a phenomenon, and it is the story of an awkward teen who finds his own niche through all of that. It is the story of the coolest 10 year old girl ever. It is the story of people wearing costumes for all the wrong reasons. And it is a great read, even if not a read suitable to my six or ten year old self. I so look forwards to seeing the movie.
Image copyright © Mark Millar and John S. Romita, published by Marvel Comics