While hitting the comics shop to pick up NEXUS #100 I perused the stands to see what else could have come out this week that could have held half as much interest for me, and my attention was caught by a comic entitled KICK-ASS. Written by Mark Millar (CIVIL WAR) and illustrated by John Romita, Jr. (MAN WITHOUT FEAR and WORLD WAR HULK), the book looked to be some kind of superhero parody. I mean, come on. Could a comic that was meant to be taken seriously be called KICK-ASS, and feature a cover image of some guy getting his moosh punched in while his head was put through a wooden door as the cover copy proclaimed "The GREATEST SUPERHERO Book Of ALL TIME Is FINALLY HERE!"?
So, thinking it was a goof, I made the mistake of purchasing the damned thing and I feel like a moron for having done so. KICK-ASS is Millar's attempt to tell the story of a non-powered superhero in a realistic context, something he claims has never been attempted before. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that what Bob Kane and Bill Finger did when they came up the Batman just under seventy years ago?
Though it bears the Icon imprint, KICK-ASS is just a Marvel MAX book in disguise, a point driven home its use of awkwardly-scripted and utterly gratuitous cursing (yeah, like I'm one to talk). The first issue is narrated by scrawny Dave Lizewski, the hero of the series — he doesn't identify himself by a hero name since he hasn't come up with a cool moniker at this point of the narrative — and recounts his loserly existence as a comics-obsessed, nebbishy middle-schooler who's a failure with girls (talk about playing to your audience with "a hero who could be me"). One day, while bullshitting about comics and superheroes with his friends, Dave decides to put on a costume and venture forth to fight crime. After weeks of parading around on rooftops he decides to make his first strike against the ills that blight society, in this case three stereotypical black kids spraying graffiti on a wall. Dave calls out the wayward highly-rhythmic trio, assaults them with a truncheon, and, in the most realistic moment in a comic purportedly about the superhero in a "realistic" context," gets the living shit stomped out of him, takes a switchblade deep in the ribs, and gets graphically hit by a car as he gorily staggers into the street. The issue ends with this idiot's bloody and broken body laid out in the middle of the tarmac.
In short, nothing happens. You get fuck all for your $2.99.
I know it's pretty much commonplace for a new Marvel book to open with a chapter that gives the reader bubkes, but for something that touts itself as "the greatest superhero book of all time," I see no evidence to support its boasting and feel more than a little ripped off. "KICK-ASS?" "ASS-KICKED," more like. Maybe this series will go someplace after everything is set up over perhaps six issues — something that took Marvel eight pages or so to do during the so-called "Marvel Age of comics" — but as it currently stands this is a perfect Exhibit A in the argument in favor of waiting for collected editions of ongoing comics, especially ones that are mediocre, or in this case just plain bad.
I don't fault Romita, Jr. for this mess since his art is not the problem (although for something striving toward realism his style is far too "cartoony" for the desired effect), but I do take Millar to task for crsnking up the Stan Lee-esque hyperbole and delivering absolutely nothing of value or interest. Not only do I feel profoundly ripped off, I also feel insulted as both a comics fan and a consumer. It's product like this — and I assure you, "product" is all that KICK-ASS is — that has largely turned me away from Marvel's output over the past decade or so, and while I can deal with the loss of three bucks I am less willing to write off what almost seems like a purposeful fleecing of the fanbase and an up-front "fuck you" to the reader's intelligence. I can assure you that no matter what I may hear from the fan press regarding this debacle, and there are plenty of good notices out there already, I will not waste another cent on the sorry-assed LICK, er, KICK-ASS. Not since the recent relaunch of THOR has comic book made me so irate, and the new THOR #1 comes off looking a hell of a lot better in comparison.
And, yes, I know that Batman very quickly fell into the realm of goofy villains and such, but it did start out as the story of a normal (?) guy in a suit who kicked ass on the criminal element of society. So there.