I rather enjoyed the first Kick Ass series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr from Marvel. The second… not as much. Nor the Hit Girl spinoff. But Kick Ass 3? Is it Iron Man 3 or is it Godfather Part III?
It all comes down to one page.
The first series contrasted the mundane with attempts to be superheroic taken entirely from comics. Kick Ass 2 lost some of that and saw them actually, on some levels, living up to their own hype. There may have been failure and idiocy along the way, but they actually stood up and did what they had been pretending to do, and especially Dave Lizewski as Kick Ass had become a real life superhero alongside Hit Girl.
In Kick Ass 3 it starts as they left it. Superheroes with a mission, a plan, an attempt to carry it out. But without their pint-sized muse, Dave Lizewski and co revert to being what they were in the first series, pathetic. Their superheroic attempts exposed for being as weak, wooly and a delusion to mask cowardice. It’s just a kid in a suit. Pathetically revealed without a chorus to bolster his madness.
As a result, it’s also properly funny again. Kick Ass 2 seemed to favour more slapstick, Kick Ass 3 is heartbreaking with pathos, as in one page, Lizewskivisits his parents grave in an attempt to be, well, more like Batman. To the extent that he tries out poses, trying to match those on a Batman cover, for his friend to photograph.
Everyone deals with grief in a different way, these characters seem to embrace it because of what it could mean for their personal origin story. In part this is parody, in part this is pure mockery, but it’s also strangely touching. That is probably Millar at his finest, something blatantly nonsensical but that can sometimes pack real emotional depth, and is reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’ work, in an instant. I was enjoying Kick Ass 3, but at that point I started to love it again.
Just as Kick Ass 2 tried to integrate aspects of the first film that were different in the comic, so as to provide a continuing narrative whether you’d seen the first film or the first comic series, so we get the same here. Once upon a time Mark Millar was adamant that the rape scene from Kick Ass 2 would make it into the film, but that changed. And now Kick Ass 3 talks about the “attack” on Kate without going into any detail. It’s a touch that shows Millar is carefully trying to blend the audience’s differing Kick Ass experiences so far, and with success.
I’d grown a bit blase about Kick Ass. Recent Millarworld titles hadn’t quite ticked the right boxes. But Kick Ass 3 could well be the best Mark Millar comic you’ve read in some time. And its all down to this one page.
Iron Man 3, definitely.