Comic book movies are taking over cinema and penetrating pop culture. Causing a resurgence in the popularity of another niche corner of the nerd world. So because these movies are permeating mainstream and making billions in the process I thought it would be fun and educational to continue taking a look at comics that inspire their big screen adaptation. This way every so often, we will get to take a look back at comic book history and learn a little more about the stories, characters, and creators that inspire billion dollar franchises and the mainstream audience to pour into theaters.
This week, the silver screen will once again be graced by the likes of Kick Ass and Hit Girl in another ultra-violent romp through the streets of New York as real life superheroes in Kick Ass 2. Like its predecessor this movie is faithfully based on the comic book created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. In Kick Ass 2 Millar and Romita reintroduce us to amateur crime fighter Dave Lizewski (Kick Ass) as he continues to live out his dream of being a real life costumed hero. This time around he has a new mentor and friend - the adorable yet deadly Mindy McCready (Hit-Girl). Millar uses Kick Ass 2 to fully envelop Dave and Mindy into the superhero fantasy that they have created.
It is their relationship that carries this story and makes it enjoyable. She is Batman while he is Robin and it’s a fun dynamic. In fact their training scene is one of my favorites, and Hit-Girl always steals the show. I love watching this diminutive little girl cause so much violence. I know it should be wrong but seeing her sling f-bombs and katannas is a thing of beauty. Hit-Girl is always the best part of any page she graces. Romita’s art really makes you love her, so cute yet so deadly. She is like a Disney Princess with a serious attitude problem and an oozy.
Kick Ass 2 is the next logical step for our heroes. After they have thwarted their first villain, Dave and Mindy are the top of the food chain. Their efforts to take back the city has inspired others to dawn costumes and stand for what is right. This is the hook of Kick Ass 2: Dave goes from being a solo hero to joining his own Justice League. Justice Forever is comprised of wannabe vigilantes with a variety of origin stories and motivations. Colonel Stars and Lieutenant Stripes, ex-mobsters turned born-again Christians, lead this group of misfits around the community to break up prostitution rings, feed the homeless and volunteer for righteous organizations.
Justice Forever is another highlight of this book. The supporting characters are so inventive and fun. Watching the group work together on their first mission is exciting and your heart will race a little as you feel the anticipation amongst the heroes. The best part is watching Colonel Stars utilize his mob experience and his four legged friend to decimate his former peers.
Kick Ass 2 thrusts Dave into the next step of hero stardom: joining a team, becoming a badass and growing into a real hero. But we all know in the comic world a hero rises only to plummet back down. Millar uses Kick Ass and Hit Girl to play out super hero tropes we are all so familiar with. He does this to show that tragedy always befalls those who don the mask.
While Dave is enjoying his new life as New York’s favorite real life hero, a new villain begins to burn from the ashes Kick Ass created. Chris Genovese, formerly Red Mist, has begun to build his own team of outcasts in an effort to become the world’s first super villain. As the Mother F**ker, Genovese’s sole mission is to avenge the death of his father, kill Dave and Mindy, and bring New York to anarchy. As his purpose and name would suggest, the Mother F**ker creates all kinds of grief and havoc for Kick Ass. He does everything he can to push Dave to his darkest depths. Thus helping him complete his “hero’s journey,” the Mother F**ker turns Dave’s superhero fantasy into stark reality on his quest for revenge.
I really enjoy this book and love the fact that Millar uses superhero tropes - so familiar to the comic loving characters - on themselves. But in his path to show villainy, Millar can sometimes go further than necessary. The Mother F**ker is a bad guy and we get that very early on, but for some reason Millar feels he needs to take than villainy to an unwarranted level just to make sure you get it.
The Mother F**ker performs a couple of heinous acts that go beyond villainy and into disgust. Killing kids and raping women wasn’t necessary to show The Mother F**ker isn’t the good guy. Don’t get me wrong: if it fits the story then these acts can have a tremendous emotional effect. Millar is clearly capable of emotional trauma but here they are clearly done for shock value alone. I don’t believe that the film version will include these horrific scenes. With a story already chock full of gore and reckless violence perpetrated by minors I don’t know why Millar feels that he needs to add that extra punch to the gut.
My only other worry with this story is that it is going to quickly become out-dated. Millar likes to use a lot of topical references in his writing especially in the Kick Ass series. Here he makes references to things like MySpace and other fallen pop culture icons that may be lost on future generations. I am sure these references will be updated for the movie version but it still puts an obvious date stamp on what could be a timeless film.
That being said, this book is a lot of fun otherwise. You hate the villains and love the heroes just as you should. You see every trope and can’t wait for it to progress to the next one. Kick Ass 2 is funny, violent, and over the top, but it gives us a small glimpse of what it really might be like to walk the streets as a masked hero. Romita’s art only amplifies the experience; he does violence and action so well. I was never lost or trying to piece together a scene. Characters express emotion flawlessly, with often just a look, feeling or thought which are clearly expressed. This is a staple of comic book art and Romita is a master.
Kick Ass 2 is a gritty, real-life look into what it would be like to live out a fantasy we have all had at one time. After reading this, I’m not sure that I will be donning a cape and cowl anytime soon, but I do understand why some would want to. Dave and Mindy can’t help but avoid the “hero’s journey” and all the pitfalls that come along with it. This book is a must read for any fan of Millar and if you loved the first movie you will love this comic. If reading the comic just isn’t your bag, (even though you may miss a couple of hyper-violent splash pages) I feel like the film’s director, Jeff Wadlow, is doing a very faithful adaptation that will literally have these characters coming to life before your eyes.