This week, we’re handing out the First Annual Comics Daily awards – one per day – between Christmas and New Year. Each award has been written up by a member of the Comics Daily team after a consensus was reached, and highlights what we feel have been the best of superhero comics this year.
My momma always said that that Mark Millar is like a box of chocolates : you never know what you’re gonna get. For every Ultimates there’s a Marvel Knights Spidey; every Red Son a Civil War; every Authority a Wanted (sorry, I’m just not a fan). So with the announcement of a creator-owned, ultra-violent “real world” superhero miniseries, and one of the most self-aggrandising promotional pushes yet seen in modern day comics, it looked a little more likely that we’d see Bad!Millar at the helm rather than Good!Millar.
Thankfully, we were proven wrong. Kick-Ass may be incredibly pleased with itself (and it’s just plain bizarre that the movie version is already being shot before the series has finished – particularly when Nic Cage was announced as being cast as a character who at that point hadn’t even appeared), but at least it kind of has justification for being so. It’s deeply “of its time”, of course – stuff like the use of Youtube works brilliantly, though some references such as to Whedon’s X-Men grate a little in their unsubtlety – and one suspects that this may prevent it from becoming a timeless classic; but the world that Millar and Romita put on the page felt very firmly like our world, today. That first issue did a wonderful job of showing the realistic effect of someone deciding to go out and become a hero (in addition to delivering one of the lines of the year with “How come people want to be Paris Hilton, but nobody wants to be Spider-Man?”), and it’s only a shame that it hasn’t been followed up on in subsequent issues. The ultra-violence and downright ludicrousness has still made for a fun read, but one that requires far more suspension of disbelief than initially seemed to be the case.
Helping the book stand out was (well, is) an absolutely stellar artistic turn from John Romita Jr. I don’t recall ever seeing work from him that I didn’t like, but even with that in mind, this ranks among some of the best art he’s ever turned in. Gleefully cutting loose on the violence as only a truly great action-artist can, he also dealt – almost more impressively – with the longer swathes of setting-up and non-action content in the first couple of issues. It’s assured, clear, and at times bloody gorgeous-looking – everything you’d expect from the great man, in other words.
Now, it’s not like Kick-Ass is mind-blowingly, awe-inspiringly brilliant, or anything. 2008, in truth, hasn’t been a particularly amazing year for miniseries (particularly if you’re strict with the definition and discount All-Star Superman, while I’m behind on Casanova and have yet to read volume two, so that’s out) – some quite decent ones have shown up, each with plenty to recommend them without being absolute “everyone interested in comics must read this” affairs. Kick-Ass gets the nod, then, for being a supremely confident and very well put-together series, for managing to be entertaining while also being pretty appalling (in terms of the brutal violence and the downright punchability of its lead character), and for the novel ways in which Millar has sought to involve online fandom in the promotion of the book. And definitely not because James’ review for That Other Site was quoted on the back of issue four. Nope.
Runners-up : 1985, Suburban Glamour, Magneto : Testament, Ultimate Human