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Comic Book Review: Kick-Ass 3

Kick-Ass 3 #1–8
Written by Mark Millar
Pencils by John Romita Jr
Inks by Tom Palmer
Colours by Dean White with Michael Kelleher
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Edited by Jennifer Lee
Published by Titan Books

After the events of Kick-Ass 2 (the comic book), Mindy McCready, aka Hit-Girl, is in prison and waiting to be sprung by Dave Lizewski, aka Kick-Ass. She has left him plans and money and her headquarters, but Dave and the rest of the former crime-fighting team called Justice Forever are a ‘bunch of goddamn pussies’ (to quote Mindy). This means that, six months later, Mindy is still in prison and the headquarters are being used by a new hero, The Juicer, as his apartment, much to the annoyance of Dave, who now has a job at a fast-food place and rents a place in Hoboken.

After getting mugged (which leads to him getting a girlfriend), Dave continues to plan Mindy’s escape – she is now in solitary and running the prison from her cell while trying her own escapes – and taking on the new head of the New York mob, Rocco Genovese, who plans to build a supermob of all the criminal gangs on the east coast. Meanwhile, Rocco has arranged the release from prison of his nephew, Chris, aka The Mother-Fucker, formerly The Red Mist, but Rocco is alienating subordinates with his extreme approach to running the organisation. Events are leading to the inevitable showdown between all parties, in a violent and explosive fashion.

To enjoy this book, you have to suspend your disbelief like you’ve never suspended it before. Despite the premise that this is a ‘real-life’ superhero story, Kick-Ass 3 is very much a superhero comic book with superhero comic book rules and superhero comic book reality. The only difference is that it is set in a world where all our comic books and comic book movies exist, so that all frames of reference relate to them: Dave posing like Bruce Wayne brooding over the grave of his parents (while his friend Todd photographs him); Dave wanting to burst into the mafia meeting like the scene in Batman: Year One; there’s even a panel that’s a reference to the famous splash page with the costume in a dustbin from Amazing Spider-Man #50 from 1967. Films are another reference point, such as Dave escaping gangsters by lying on the road and then hauling himself underneath a truck that drives over him, with the other characters referencing the fact it looked like Indiana Jones, so you can never completely believe that this book is supposed to be ‘reality’.

An aside: pop-culture references are the mainstay of Millar’s work – all of it is swamped in time-specific mentions of pop culture: this book namechecks Game of Thrones, Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, Angry Birds, The Wire, Transformers 3, the CBR forums, the Borg, Harry Potter, ‘a shape-shifting Skrull’, the Princess Diana movie, the movie Commando; there is even a Shakespeare bust for entry to the Hit-Cave. However, now Millar can even reference himself: there’s a line in the book, ‘This is Justice Forever’s Civil War …’, as well tying in this book to the rest of his Millarworld books (Mindy reading Jupiter’s Legacy and Supercrooks comics, watching Superior films, a reference to Nemesis).

That’s the thing about this book: it is the fever dream of a comic book nerd who grew up loving and consuming comic books, and has now made his living out of his lifelong obsession. He is also mocking himself and people like him who devote themselves to comic books (the finale sees Dave berating himself for his comic-book obsession: ‘fucking comic books’, ‘What a waste of a life’, ‘all this useless, pointless superhero information’, before having a rather trite dream sequence of his parents that reaffirms his love of comic books and helps him out), while at the same time giving the main characters a happy ending because faith in comic books deserves to be rewarded (even his friend Todd survives, even though all other members of Justice Forever are slaughtered).

As long as you can keep this in mind while reading this book, you can find things to enjoy: the ridiculously over-the-top violence, the exciting finale of the last issue, a total commitment to the craziness of the world in which the characters live. Millar knows how to craft a story and Romita Jr knows how to illustrate one, even if his children have a slight oddness to their physiques (a geeky aside: you could make a connection between this book and the original ‘world outside your window’ superhero universe of Marvel’s New Universe, where the superheroes reference our comic books, via Romita Jr’s art on the lead title in that comics line, Starbrand, although I might be stretching it a bit; his work in this book isn’t like the smoother lines of his artwork back then, or even his Daredevil work with Ann Nocenti, the milieu of which has more in common with Kick-Ass, with the emphasis on organised criminal gangs and the colourful costumed characters thrown into the mix). I still find it odd seeing Romita Jr drawing teenagers having sex or a teenage girl slicing off the top half of a gangster’s head with a samurai sword, but that’s just because I’ve seen his artwork on mainstream comic books for 30 years; he seems to be enjoying himself while drawing this crazy violence, and he hasn’t lost his storytelling skills in the change from PG to R.

Kick-Ass 3 sees a fitting end to the trilogy (well, four books with the Hit-Girl mini-series acting as a bridging book between Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2), in keeping with the excessively violent tone and the wish-fulfilment story of a teenage boy who loved comics and thought he could become like his heroes by putting on a costume and doing some press-ups, and the teenage girl who’d been raised to be a homicidal vigilante. It’s exactly the sort of story that fits with modern comic books, and it does it with gusto and skill. Personally, I didn’t like it and wouldn’t recommend it, but I can see its value.

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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