Kick-Ass is back and he’s ready to…you get the idea. Mark Miller’s hyperkinetic spin on superheroes gets a little sombre at the start of his final chapter.
Mark Millar’s 2008 comic Kick-Ass has become more than simply a cult success, instead spinning out into a multimedia empire. Following a mostly faithful film adaptation, there was a disappointing Kick-Ass 2 comic that failed to capture the irreverence of the first outing. Yet in Millar’s Hit Girl interquel, he proved that there was life yet in the franchise, and with a cinematic sequel not too far away, we now have the first issue of what we are promised is the final chapter in the Kick-Ass saga.
With Hit Girl in prison, and costumed vigilantes outlawed in the city, the sheen of being Kick-Ass has worn off a little bit for Dave Lizewski. Surrounded by hangers-on and wannabes, their plans to rescue Hit Girl go awry and they all slowly fade into domesticity. Dave goes through the motions, but the villainy in town has dried up and all the threats are mundane and closer to home.
From Hawkeye to Sex, the last few years have been full of comics that wonder what happens when life gets in the way of spandex. In Kick-Ass 3, Dave finds himself posing in front of his parents’ graves, finding that the long black coats look more effective. More so than any other Kick-Ass comic since the first volume, this issue is about the harsh realities of donning a wetsuit and going out trying to beat up bad guys. Even a bar full of lowlifes are over it, readily giving up information just to be rid of the pesky hero and go about their night. It’s this casual indifference to the events that firmly marks this final arc, and while some of that might indicate Millar’s desire to move onto other work, it also makes this chapter seem more human somehow.
Romita Jr’s artwork has always been divisive, yet his rough-looking style is certainly more suited to this series than some of his other work for Marvel. Romita does some fine work here, including a particularly haunting moment that sees Hit Girl sitting alone in a prison cell. Similarly, the aforementioned graveyard scene not only brings a much-needed dose of knowing humour back into the mix, it’s properly atmospheric and reminiscent of classic Batman comics as well. In fact, there are a few nice visual cues in this issue, including one to the oft-parodied The Amazing Spider-man #50 (1967), drawn by Romita’s legendary father.
Perhaps where Kick-Ass 3 falters is in finding the right hook for an audience that has bathed in the blood, sweat and fears of these characters already. However, Millar seems to be legitimately interested in developing these characters again, turning them from caricatures back into real humans with real problems. He hints in an afterword that this is the final arc for many a reason, and perhaps that is all the hook we really need to keep going in this always busy series.
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