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A Relative Newbie Review: Kick-Ass #1

Kick-Ass #1 is the relaunch of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.‘s mega franchise. For most people Kick-Ass either makes people extremely happy or divides them in about five seconds. That’s the nature of Mark Millar, it seems, as people either love or hate his writing with little in-between. Here’s the thing, I actually have had more good experiences with Millar than bad ones. The Kick-Ass franchise is one that I’ve not delved into as much as other aspects of Millar’s world. I know a lot of the basic concepts of Kick-Ass but not much more. If you ever wanted a new reader perspective on Kick-Ass, this review is it. Strap yourselves in my friends for a blazing fast vigilante spectacular of a review with Kick-Ass #1. Time to find out if this relaunch is worth your time and mine as well.

Hard to believe I’m one of the few people who hasn’t experienced Kick-Ass in full but here we are. We are in for a ride.

The story of Kick-Ass was initially a guy named Dave Lizewski deciding to make a superhero costume and fight crime. There aren’t superheroes in this world and the inspiration for the Dave and other heroes to follow is from comic books. Do you need to know any of this going into this #1? You can walk into this blind and be fine. The story focuses on Patience Lee coming back after 8 years in the military with her tour being up and she’s coming home. Her plans are to take care of her kids, go to college, and let her husband take up the slack for awhile. Only to see that her plan falling apart as her husband leaves her. Then that is when she has to figure out just what to do from there while being a single Mom. From there is for us to learn what leads her to get into the Kick-Ass suit.

Now what Millar does is let us get to know Patience as a person before she adopts the suit. By the time she’s in that suit you know everything you need to know. For you as a new reader this is a fresh new character and a new story. This is all from the perspective of Patience and how she plans to operate as a vigilante. Since she has military training this is actually a good fit for her and Millar makes a point to show us this. We learn too that outside of her military training that she is a good Mom and wants to do what is best for her kids. That’s one part of this that really works, Patience is a likable character and someone who knows how to take care of herself. For what Millar is going for it works.

Okay, so in the case of Patience Lee we’re in good shape. Good new reader friendly character and direction. Everything is ship shape here right? Well, yes and no.

I mean you would think that by liking the character and her motivations, I would dig Kick-Ass #1 right? Well it is a simple enough motivation but not much to hook into. I can imagine people wondering how she got the suit for one. It becomes the game of we learn why she wants to become a vigilante but the suit magically appears. Yeah I can see Millar revealing more later but I’m left wondering where the darned thing came from. It has a lot of action but outside of Patience and her family there isn’t much more sink into. Now I will add an extra note here, there is potential for this comic. Then we can go back and say that the story got better later on. For now though, it’s a little weak yet I will say I didn’t hate what I saw. There is a lot to build on and it could easily improve.

Kick-Ass #1 Opening Page

I do applaud Millar for making this first issue as new reader friendly as possible. There are references to other things in this world but it’s so loose that it doesn’t matter. Yes the way Patience gets into this game is a little cliche and goofy at points, maybe a tad over blown, but I will admit I was entertained. It’s Mark Millar and I knew what I was getting into for the most part. For the potential I see in this though and in such a strong black female character in Patience Lee, I’m willing to hang in there. I want to see where this story goes and what Millar does with it. Yet I haven’t gotten into the art yet and there is a lot to praise in that aspect of the book.

My goodness, Kick-Ass #1 has a strong art team. That cannot be denied here at all. Not one single bit.

Now John Romita Jr. is the co-creator of Kick-Ass and an oddly polarizing artist in his own right. He is in the same category of Millar in the love or hate scale of things. When I was first getting back into comics Romita’s work on Dan Jurgens Thor run hooked me like no other. You can put me squarely in the category of digging Romita’s art. In all honesty, this is some of my favorite work of Romita’s. It’s briliant at capturing the energy of the action sequences in Millar’s script. There’s even something to how he captures even the quieter sequences in and around the action when Millar is detailing Patience’s family. It’s good at capturing fast movement in battle as well as quiet emotional moments too, a perfect balance for this story.

What also helps Romita’s art here is the digital inks and colors from Peter Steigerwald. One of the opening shots replicating how it would look if our hero was caught on camera somewhere, really cool grayscale effect. Then add in the smooth lines Steigerwald adds to Romita’s art and some brilliant lighting effects alongside, this book just looks good. John Workman‘s letters in particular are always classic as they are big, bold, and exciting in the already powerhouse battle scenes. With added ink assistance from Megan Madrigal, this is one killer art team. No matter how hit and miss I am on the story so far, the art here is spectacular.

Overall it’s New Reader Friendly but with some flaws, but gorgeous art. It may not be perfect but Kick-Ass #1 is a solid read.

I will be curious to see how many other new to newer readers check out Kick-Ass #1. I have some issues but overall I enjoyed my time with it. A solid B ratings wise as it passes my tests but with some room to improve. Give this a shot yourself and I really do want to know what you think if you try it. In my own case, I now have a bunch of Kick-Ass trades to dive into and learn more about this universe. Thanks for reading and enjoying my newbie adventure into the world of Kick-Ass.

Story: Mark Millar Pencils: John Romita Jr. Digital Inks and Colors: Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: John Workman Digital Ink Assistant: Megan Madrigal
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for Review

Review: Kick Ass # 1

Kick-Ass is back but Dave Lizewski, the earnest, bespectacled, nerd of days past is gone. In his place is Patience Lee, a black woman and mother of two who leaves the military only to find that her husband has abandoned her to pursue a musical career. Faced with few options and mounting debt Patience decides to rob a gang to provide for her family.

Mark Millar is a divisive figure in the comics industry. While many people adore his high concepts and cinematic storytelling others are revolted by the mean streak that runs through most of his work and his tendency to fall back on highly problematic tropes of disability, race, sexuality and violence, especially towards women. As a reader I’m highly conflicted since it was Miller’s run on Marvel’s Ultimate X-Men that brought me back into the comic book fold and it was his MillarWorld forum that nourished my resurgent fandom. I want to like what he does but, sadly, I didn’t much like this.

One thing you have to give Millar credit for on the original Kick-Ass was it’s realism. For all that it could be offensive, it still had a solid emotional core that was grounded in the experiences of a lifelong fanboy. It’s story of a young man  trying to make a difference in the world in the only way he could conceive how was at once poignant and pathetic and gave that book some value despite the worst of its creator’s excesses.

In this new book it feels like Millar has heard all the criticism about the lack of diversity in comics and tried to answer it. Unfortunately the result, while brilliant in concept, is sloppy in its execution. Patience feels less like a fully rounded character and more like a bucket full of cliches: a woman of color raising her kids alone because of a feckless spouse who has to turn to crime to make ends meet. He’s put a minority character into the spotlight but she’s never allowed to transcend the stereotypes of her race if not her gender (at least no one threatens to rape her in this first issue). Millar has veered so far out of his lane here that it feels like he’s gone right into oncoming traffic and that’s a shame because the idea of a veteran (and a female veteran of color at that) as a superhero is one that has a lot of potential for good storytelling.

One thing about which I can find no flaw here is the artwork. John Romita Jr continues to amaze and delight me with this new career resurgence he’s been on for the last year. His work, which felt boring and staid after too many years at Marvel, has come alive once again in his creator owned project and his work for hire at DC. He’s drawing like a much younger artist and the passion is evident where before there was a growing sense of a man who had been there and done that a thousand times before. This is Romita at his best, raw and unfiltered. The digital inks of Peter Steigerwald and Megan Madrigal keep his lines from straying and Steigerwald’s colors add to the comic’s already strong flavor of the cinema. It almost looks like you’re watching one of Netflix’s Marvel shows, an effect that I’m sure was intentional. Letterer John Workman is brilliant as always, with an understated hand for his craft that you can’t help but notice while you’re not noticing it.

Overall the new Kick-Ass is a mixed bag, a fumbled attempt at producing the kind of comic the industry needs with some really nice looking art. It might have been successful if Millar had bothered to delve a little deeper into the inner life of his protagonist and brought to light something that felt half as true as Dave Lizewski did at his best. He can do great stuff when he doesn’t try to outdo Garth Ennis in being edgy. I wish he would remember that.

Story: Mark Millar Artist: John Romita Jr
Ink: Peter Steigerwald and Megan Madrigal Lettering: John Workman
Story: 5.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Pass

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review