Kick-Ass is one of those comics that paints itself as a realistic depiction of superheroes. It’s a trend that many will argue began, and should’ve ended, with Watchmen. Still, even Watchmen‘s premise was fairly forgiving – it was a realistic take on a superhero universe as much as superhero characters. Kick-Ass goes one step further, asking what happens when someone in OUR universe – the real world – tries to be a superhero.
As you can imagine, the answers are fairly simple, and they involve some poorly thought-out violence, a lot of swearing, and a teenager with too much time on his hands. It’s gloriously, painfully bleak stuff. The main character cuts a familiar figure – a comic-obsessed teenager who spends his time jacking off to internet porn and praising Joss Whedon to his friends. I feel lampooned already.
Issue #1 is, naturally, an origin story: David Lizewski is a nobody. After his mother dies of a brain aneurysm, he lives alone with his father, playing video games and reading comics. There’s nothing special about him, no unreasonable trauma in his upbringing, he just can’t understand (and if you ask me, quite reasonably so) why people want to be Paris Hilton and not Spider-Man. The thing that separates him from all of us is that he’s got exactly the right combination of time, boredom and stupidity to take it to the next level. Putting on a wetsuit with a facemask, he goes out looking for crime. For a while, he’s enjoying it, even if he finds nothing. When he eventually tackles a gang of grafitti artists, things go south pretty as fast as you’d expect – he’s beaten up, shivved and left for dead.
And let me tell you this: it’s all hilarious. Seeing Romita really go to town on the violence levels is, in itself, worth the price of entry. He’s been drawing castrated super-hero books for so long that you can practically feel the glee dripping off the page like the blood he’s drawing when David smacks a gang member in the face with his bat. Millar has his flaws as a writer, but he’s definitely managed to rein in his wilder tendencies – in David, he’s created a character who, far more than someone like Peter Parker, represents the everyman. I’m sympathetic with his directionless, entertainment-obsessed plight. The script, though, is where Millar really shines, and the last line of the book is what sells me on the next issue. I hesitate to spoil, but if you’re undecided it sums up the tone of the book perfectly: “Two broken legs, my spine crushed, and dressed like a fucking pervert. My dad was going to kill me.”