Those claiming that Mark Millar is only interested in generating film versions of his own work would do well consider the content of “Kick-Ass 2.” The success and largely positive critical reception to the Kick-Ass movie means that Millar would have been entirely justified in incorporating elements of the film into this sequel, like Hit-Girl’s appearance, Aaron Johnson’s likeness, and Dave’s relationship with Katie. There’s a lot that could have been changed. After all, Arthur C. Clarke changed Saturn into Jupiter when he wrote the sequel to “2001”, following Kubrick’s movie; If Millar was as mercenary as people claim, he could have gotten away with far greater than that.
And yet, “Kick-Ass 2” #1 is, in almost every way, a sequel to the comic. Not even a wry in-joke to hint at the existence of the film. Tonally, it does feel a little more upbeat and optimistic, which slightly recalls the movie, the cynical humour of the first series tempered but not entirely jettisoned -- though arguably, that’s a natural progression of the story.
That’s because while the first series was about people so trodden on by life that they would take the urge to become a superhero to its furthest extension, this one starts with them in a much better place. Dave is a successful costumed hero, teaming up with those he has inspired, and Hit-Girl has the stable family life she was denied. The story flashes ahead, suggesting that the series will eventually examine what a world of superheroes would actually mean. It appears that the costumed gang wars to come (and the supervillains they’ve inspired) might just be as bad as the crime and criminals they intended to prevent. It’s an escalation of the concept.
If anything’s missing, it’s the often brutal moments of violence that the first series revelled in. The almost cartoonish excesses that made the first series such fun are noticeably absent, and attempts to make up for it with some boundary-pushing offense (i.e. jokes about Rhianna being beaten up) are as unnecessary as they are out-of-date. Millar should really take cues from his mate Frankie Boyle (a popular and offensive British stand-up) and develop his offensive streak into something more constructive. Used properly, offense is supposed to challenge the audience’s attitudes. Here, it merely reinforces them.
As this issue’s backmatter notes, Romita Jr. has switched to layouts rather than full pencils, but the effect on the book’s visuals is almost unnoticeable. Tom Palmer’s washes give a depth to the work that matches the look of the original series, and Dean White’s colors are as vibrant as ever. Romita’s clarity and experience give real weight and depth to every panel, and the fight sequences are fantastically choreographed.
Whatever you think of the subject matter, it’s a fact that “Kick-Ass 2” has one of the most technically able creative teams in the industry, and that level of ability is reflected on every page. You may not like what it says or does, but it’s hard to fault the way it’s all done. If you liked the last series, then there’s no doubt about it: get in line for this one too.