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Comic Book Review: Hit-Girl

Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl #1–5
Written by Mark Millar
Pencils by John Romita Jr
Inks by Tom Palmer
Colours by Dean White
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Edits by Jennifer Lee
Published by Titan Books

Warning: before buying this comic book, you should be made aware that it is not ‘real-life’ superheroes. Ignore what Millar says in interviews – this is a traditional (if modern-day), completely over-the-top superhero adventure filled with only-in-comic-books action. This is a book where a 12-year-old girl breaks into a prison, knocks out the guards, kills a mafia boss and then executes the prisoners on death row with a machine gun, quipping ‘Just thought I’d save the taxpayer a little cash while I’m here’. This is not serious. This is a hilariously insane, excessive, demented, crazily violent action thriller mixed with bits from a John Hughes film, which is perhaps the most ideal Mark Millar comic book ever.

This is the sequel to the comic book as well as acting as the start of Kick-Ass 2: after the events of the first book, the mob is killing imitators of Kick-Ass in order to find him and Hit-Girl. Meanwhile, Mindy McCready, aka Hit-Girl, is trying to live a ‘normal’ life as a pre-teen girl with her mum and step-dad (who is also a police officer), but she is finding it difficult to blend in with the girls at high school; as she puts it, ‘Why can’t I handle these bitches?’ Her solution: in exchange for training Kick-Ass to be an actual superhero, Kick-Ass has to show her how to be a normal girl. This means two things: firstly, Hit-Girl teaches Kick-Ass the basics of superheroing (learning how to jump through windows to make a dramatic entrance, developing ‘iconic’ lines when making an entrance, and slaughtering mobsters when Kick-Ass can’t beat them up); secondly, Kick-Ass teaches Hit-Girl how she should act (telling her to watch shows about celebrities and chick flicks, especially ‘all vampire stuff’, which is ‘solid gold’, and developing knowledge of The Hunger Games and Bieber). All the while, Hit-Girl is drugging her parents at night and disposing of mobsters, just like any normal pre-teen …

Meanwhile, the Red Mist is developing into a supervillain: he is out for revenge against Kick-Ass (although he can’t remember the real identity of Kick-Ass) and to regain control of the mob business of his father; however, when his first supercrime goes wrong, he heads out and does a ‘Bruce Wayne’, paying ninjas to train him up to be the ultimate bad ass. Unfortunately, he eventually discovers that it’s actually a lot of hard work and can’t be bothered, especially because he knows that the instructors are ripping him off, so he decides to go back to the US and just hire bodyguards instead.

In order for these comic book antics to be vaguely believable, it needs the art to be grounded yet still able to handle the comic book side. Romita Jr is such an artist – he can draw the grungy mobsters, the high-school scenes, the smallness of the family interactions, but also handle the demented violence. He has always been a terrific storyteller, which helps you believe what is going on, even while your brain is wondering if you should be laughing as a 12-year-old girl slaughters criminals. His style in this comic book is softened in comparison with his normal work because of Palmer’s inks: the art here is more rounded than the more angular, blocky style when Romita Jr inks himself; Palmer brings a looser, warmer feel to the line work (although he can’t do anything about the over-large heads that Romita Jr draws on his young characters, perhaps the only flaw in a book about Hit-Girl).

This is a deliriously bonkers comic book with scenes of Tarantinoesque violence: Hit-Girl sticks a cleaver in a mobster’s genitals, rams a rolling pin down another mobster’s throat, smashes in the head of a mobster with a sledgehammer, before going on a killing spree involving decapitations and chopping off limbs. However, the whole point is that it is done in jet-black humour: this is a 12-year-old girl as the Punisher, with added pop culture references (and the worrying element that she hallucinates her dead father). It’s supposed to be funny. What it’s not supposed to be is in any way realistic. The mentions of Marvel and DC superheroes, Christian Bale films, Mean Girls/Queen Bee, The Big Bang Theory, Comic Book Resources (Kick-Ass writes pieces about comics for them, such as an article about Vertigo paper stock): these all suggest that this story is occurring in our world (and these references immediately date the book to a very specific point in time), but it’s all an illusion. This is a comic book, pure and simple, and all the better for it. Just keep saying to yourself: ‘This isn’t real life’. And enjoy the ride.

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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