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‘Kick-Ass: The Dave Lizewski Years’ Books 1-4 (review)

Written by Mark Millar
Art / Cover by John Romita Jr
Published by Image Comics
Released February 14, 2018

 

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Kick-Ass is exactly where the infamous Dr. Fredric Wertham was worried that comics would go. Every page is dripping with blood, it puts children in dangerous situations, torture is rampant, alcohol, drug abuse, bad parenting, explicit sex, every fifth word is one you can’t say even on cable TV, and over and over again, it shows ultra-violence as the best solution to everything.

And yet it’s impossible to dislike Kick-Ass when it has more heart than most comic book series of recent vintage.

First of all, forget the movies. Different animals entirely. We aren’t talking about them. But the comic? Man, these are good!

One doesn’t name a comic book series “Kick-Ass” in the first place without expecting controversy and at the same time promising to make it live up to that title. The former was certainly there but it’s all in the past now that it’s been around for a decade. The latter, however, is all over the new graphic novel collections in abundance!

In a way, it takes the popular 1980s trope of “real world” superheroes and runs it through Quentin Tarentino’s blood colored lenses. It’s the story of a teenager, our title character, who is inspired to put on a homemade costume and go out and fight crime only to find out he’s bitten off a lot more than he can chew. But then there’s Hit Girl, a precocious pre-teen whose father trained her from an early age to follow a code akin to Wally Wood’s famous axiom, “There are good guys and there are bad guys and the job of the good guys is to kill the bad guys.” On the one hand, it’s hard not to see a father convincing his cute little girl to murder people as a bad thing but on the other, to the reader, it’s hard not to see Hit-Girl as cool as hell…and feel guilty on so many levels for feeling that way!

But like I said, the book is surprisingly full of heart, too, dealing as it does throughout with issues of adolescent angst, friendship, bullying, acceptance, growing up, and doing the right thing when it’s the hard thing. Writer Mark Millar brings to the table a clear and deep understanding of comic books themselves and what they really mean to young people. There are scores of references to Marvel and DC characters as if to underline this being “our” world, not anyone else’s universe.

It’s a tricky balancing act and clearly, he goes over the line into the gorier section a few times more than he really needed to but again, that was what he promised going in.

The art proves once and for all—if by chance any proof was still needed for anyone—that John Romita, Jr. is a force to be reckoned with on his own and not just his father’s son. Every panel and every character look as though a great deal of thought as well as drawing has gone into it and his storytelling skills are at a peak every step of the way.

Kick-Ass also provides the best showcase in decades for the classic inks of Marvel’s Bronze Age legend, Tom Palmer, with the artists being served over and above by the perfectly chosen palette of Dean White’s colors.

Kick-Ass is brutal. If you are at all easily offended, don’t even flip through any of these volumes. But it has a beginning, a middle, and even an unexpectedly happy ending.

Taken as a whole, these collected issues and volumes constitute a graphic novel that may not be as cerebral as Watchmen but that’s just as important. Think of Millar as John Ford to Alan Moore’s Orson Welles. One doesn’t invalidate the other and each director’s style is equally artistic.

We live in violent times where children seem to be committing more and more violent acts every single day. Children can be easily influenced but remember, Kick-Ass is NOT a comic book aimed at children!

Kick-Ass does indeed live up to its name.

Booksteve recommends.

 

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