It’s hard not to feel like the comic version of Kick-Ass has been overshadowed somewhat. In the time it’s taken for its eight issues to be released, a movie version has been developed, produced, prepared for released and subjected to no small amount of hype and excited anticipation. While we’re still a couple of months away from it hitting cinemas, if advance word-of-mouth is anything to go by, it seems that Millar and Romita’s great legacy in creating this property will come from a film that looks set to be a huge hit rather than a comics miniseries that has provided moments of brilliance but been, on the whole, rather patchy (not to mention having its momentum stalled by a slow publication schedule).
But that said, the book has seemed to get somewhat better in its closing issues – I don’t know if it’s the influence of the in-progress film, but shifting the focus onto Big Daddy and Hit Girl has worked wonders for its entertainment value, with every issue since (and including) their “origin” adding up to something generally better than the first half of the series. There was a strong air of cynicism in those early issues, and it led to a book that it was possible to admire for its craft, but in a rather detached way; however, with an increased amount of sympathy applicable to Dave, and vulnerability to Hit Girl (particularly evident in one very well-judged moment late in this issue), it’s become a lot easier to like.
Not that it’s not still, on the whole, a ridiculously violent near-piss-take of a comic, with Millar delighting in the sheer excess (and Romita being… well, as good as Romita ever is, which is “one of the best artists in comics” good) . Plot-wise there’s barely an unexpected moment – it’s not like any further twist could top #7’s briefcase revelation anyway – even down to the somewhat cruel resolution of the Katie subplot, but this is really just about giving the baddies their comeuppance and revelling in a succession of amusing (if often distasteful) moments. Lines about a Hello Kitty bag and a photo on a cellphone are among the smirk-worthy points, as is the very last line of the issue (even though it’s deliberately nicked from somewhere else). There’s also a rather excellent callback to a throwaway joke from a few issues ago.
It’s hard to tell, though, whether this feels more like a coda to the whole thing – some strands you suspect are definitively tied up – or a setup for more (the back cover blurb, and hints throughout the issue, suggest that this should be seen as Kick-Ass’ “origin” story rather than his entire one). I wouldn’t be averse to seeing the world and characters revisited – but I just wonder if making it less self-contained, and more of an ongoing property, would defeat the object of the unique little niche it carved out. As it stands, though, it’s an often fun, occasionally brilliant – but perhaps a little over-confident series, and will at least stand as perhaps the purest distillation of the brassy excess its creator is so often famed for; the most “Millarish” book that he’s ever put out. Now, though, about that movie…