Quite a week for heavily-delayed, high-profile titles, isn’t it? A new Astonishing X-Men, Detective Comics #853 (more on that later in the week), and Kick-Ass. God alone knows where it’s been, mind – the story must have been written yonks ago given that they’ve nearly finished making a film of it, and Romita Jr is one of the most reliable and steady pencillers in the business, so he can’t have been holding it up. Anyway, it’s here now, and it remains one of the most talked-about books in comics whenever it shows its grubby, blood-drenched face.
It’s hard not to feel, though, that some of the spark has gone out of it while it’s been away. It’s always a fairly enjoyable read when you’ve got it in your hands, but it’s long since passed the point where it should have really asserted any real meaning beyond being a fun combination of apparent superhero “realism” and completely over-the-top ludicrousness. That said, this issue at least moves the plot on in significant fashion – finally bringing us to a point where the situation of the opening pages of #1 is in sight – and manages to wind up as one of the strongest so far, perhaps by virtue of pushing Dave out of sight for half of it.
Because, as the cover declares, this is “The Secret Origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl”. I can’t say I was hugely excited to learn more about the ultra-violent father-daughter vigilante team, but despite springing out of incredibly cliched origins (think The Punisher – directly namechecked in the issue – crossed with Tulip out of Preacher and you’re basically there), this is actually a decent little story. At the same time as stupidly overplaying the pair’s right-wing views, he manages to invest them with no small amount of sympathy, and the mutual reliance of their relationship (exemplified by it being Big Daddy’s idea to go hunting down the mob in the first place, but Hit-Girl’s to turn themselves into comic book characters) is well-defined. And with a line about “magic fucking hypno-ring”s, Hit-Girl gets by far the best line of the series so far.
Lending the book an air of class even despite the cliche and ultraviolence is, of course, the art of Romita Jr – his work in the sepia-toned flashback “origin” sequence is of particular note (as is the colour work of Dean White) – and if he struggles a bit with the deliberately cartoonish style of Hit-Girl (massive head, tiny body) seeming at odds with the realism of his work elsewhere in the book, he makes up for it by giving real character to Big Daddy’s “civilian” identity – no mean feat for a murderous, right-wing vigilante.
A twist of the “should have seen it coming but wasn’t really thinking about it enough to see it coming” variety means that the issue ends on a fairly genuine note of wanting to happen next – the problem, really, is that you wonder whether, by the time the next issue comes out, you’ll still remember that you were curious. Kick-Ass is an extremely well-crafted comic, with a gleeful sense of the absurd and the capacity to genuinely entertain – but it struggles to make itself something that you actually wait for during the publication breaks. And as fun as the story’s been at times, it hasn’t been the earth-shattering examination of “real life” superheroics that we might have expected – so you can’t help but wonder if, when the movie’s been and gone, anyone will still care.