Monday, 15 March 2010

A Kick-Ass comic

Kick-Ass (comic book)

The movie of Kick-Ass is due out in a few weeks. And I can’t wait. The trailers (especially the red band one) are crazy good and the early reviews are through the roof. If nothing else you have to see it for Hit Girl, the ten-year-old prepubescent, sword wielding, foul-mouthed ‘heroine’ who’s guaranteed to upset a lot of people. Kick-Ass is a strange beast in that legendary comic book writer Mark Millar (Wanted, The Authority, The Ultimates, Marvel Knights, Spider-Man, Civil War) sold the movie rights early on to Mathew Vaughan (producer of Lock Stock and Snatch and director of Layer Cake and Stardust.) Vaughan then developed the movie alongside the creation of the comic book. And though essentially the same story with the same characters, they do apparently diverge in some places so that they are not exact carbon copies of each other. I didn’t read the book when it was released in its usual monthly issues, instead I waited for the collected edition of the first volume – the story that forms the backbone for the film. And it is quite simply brilliant stuff and quite unlike any comic I’ve ever read. I just hope the movie will be as ballsy. I think it will.

Kick-Ass is the story of utterly average sixteen-year-old New York kid Dave Lizewski. Dave lives with his doting, widowed dad and leads a typical teenage boys life – he plays video games, hangs out with friends, lusts after hot girls at school, fantasises over a big bosomed teacher, surfs the web for porn, hangs out in chat rooms. Oh, and he’s also a major comic book geek. One day Dave wonders to his friends why nobody in real life has ever tried being a superhero, putting on a costume to fight crime. His friends tell him its obvious: you’d either be utterly ridiculed or just plain dead within days. Probably both. Comic book heroics are nothing more than unachievable fantasies and wish fulfilment whereas real life is hard and dangerous and deadly. But Dave isn’t convinced and so decides to give the superhero thing a try. Using a wetsuit he buys on Ebay and a couple of wooden clubs, Dave takes to the streets as a costumed vigilante, the self titled Kick-Ass…whereupon he promptly gets stabbed, beaten half to death and run over by a car.

After six months in hospital and then lots of physiotherapy (he managed to strip himself of the costume before he was found then told his dad he was mugged) Dave is back on his feet and back to school. But the allure of the costumed hero is too much to resist. And so Dave once again dons the Kick-Ass costume and heads out to pound the streets looking for crime to fight. And this time he succeeds…just. In a bloody brawl, Dave saves a man from a vicious mugging and ends up as a sensation on YouTube after a passer by films it all. The popularity of Kick-Ass skyrockets. Pretty soon other people are donning masks and costumes and taking to the streets as well. Dave sets up a Kick-Ass MySpace page where people can contact him if they need help ala The Equaliser. One such contact leads Dave to a drug dealers den full of very bad people indeed, and where it looks as if Kick-Ass is finally gonna be ass kicked for good. It is then, in what he thinks are to be his last moments on earth, that Dave meets the masked, foul mouthed, whirling dervish of purple hair and lethal swordsmanship that is Hit Girl. A ten year old girl who slashes and stabs and kung fu kicks her way through an apartment full of heavily armed drug dealers leaving no head un-beheaded and no guts un-spilled. It is in this first meeting that the little terror gives to the room full of thugs what is sure to become her immortal line:

“Okay, you cunts. Let’s see what you can do.”

This is a full-page iconic pose of the psycho tyke covered in the dripping blood of her victims, a severed head at her feet, a devilish smile on her lips. I laughed my ass off at the utterly disgusting, hilarious, uber-cool, absurdity of it. It turns out that Hit Girl works with her dad, named appropriately Big Daddy, another costumed type. Only these two have been working for a while now, low key, under the radar, to take down the city’s big mob boss. They have their reasons for doing so, which I won’t divulge. Suffice to say it is true comic book stuff…before then being subverted.

Dave is horrified at the violence and death meted out by the crazy kiddie. He worries that Kick-Ass will be blamed for the deaths due to his MySpace page contact, while Hit Girl thinks that they should team up as she and Big Daddy could use Kick-Ass’s help in a big final push to get the bad guys.

What will Dave do?

Who is Red Mist, another new super type who seems intent on stealing Kick-Ass’s thunder with the public?

And just how the hell did Dave manage to become his High School crushes gay best friend when he isn’t gay?

These questions and more are answered in this clever, crazy, action packed, witty, blood stained comic. There is so much to love here I don’t know where to start. Er…yes I do. Hit Girl. She is an instant icon of the comic book world. An insane inversion of what every little girl should be. For Christmas and birthdays she should want Bratz dolls or fluffy bunnies or cute clothes. Instead she wants M-16 rifles, switch blades and kevlar armour. And she has a swearing vocabulary most middle-aged Dockers couldn’t keep up with. I blame the parents myself. Apart from the awesome but rather over the top Hit Girl, the world of Kick-Ass actually rings true. Nothing here is super. Everything used is everyday or available if you know where to go. People get the crap beaten out of them and spend time in hospital as a result. Or they simply get killed. And the response of the media and the public at large is quite believable. You could see something like this actually happening. Scary.

I knew I’d love Kick-Ass from the first few panels of John Romita Jr’s stylised art and Millar’s sparky, witty dialogue. But when a few pages in Dave is reading X-Men and gives out some big love to Joss Whedon as its writer and then states that he’s the biggest Buffy maniac in the world, I loved him even more. You see I was Dave at that age. A big part of me still is - although I never had the balls (or the stupidity) to actually try being a super hero for real. As Dave soon finds out there are bloody good reasons why people don’t. Emphasis on the bloody.

Kick-Ass volume one is fantastic. It is fast paced, very funny, very violent and quite brutally realistic – not just in the violence but in how things pan out and how people behave to each other. For instance, Dave thinks he might have his very own Mary Jane Watson at school. It doesn’t quite work out that way for the poor lad. Peter Parker thought he had a rough time trying to be a normal kid and a super hero? He should try being Dave Lizewski. Now THAT’S tough!

Pure kick ass genius.

1 comment:

  1. I'm gonna wait until after I see the film to read the original. The reputation the Kick Ass movie is so strong, I want to be surprised by it as much as possible.