You might look at "Hit-Girl" #1 and be inclined to think, "Oh, here we go again" -- and you would be right to do so. Mark Millar and John Romita return for yet another instalment from the hyper-violent "real" world of Kick-Ass: the book you either love to hate or hate to love.
Millar and Romita have given Hit-Girl the starring role in a series that bridges the gap between "Kick-Ass" and "Kick-Ass 2." Placed in the care of her mother and stepfather (a police officer), Mindy is told to quit her crime-fighting and become something she isn't capable of being: a normal girl. You can probably guess how well that goes for her. It's mostly more of the same, but at least (cover tagline aside) the overt misanthropy of "Kick-Ass 2" appears to have given way to something in marginally less poor taste.
Surprisingly, given that Hit-Girl has always worked best as the super-cool foil for Kick-Ass, the story humanizes her in some interesting ways. Even though it's still the Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl show in ways that might initially seem indistinguishable from book's parent series, the focus here is undoubtedly on Mindy rather than Dave. We learn more about her training, her feelings towards her father and we get to see (for the first time) her weaknesses. Not physical or psychological, but social.
Where Dave's series presented the fights and the criminals as the challenges, Hit-Girl's problems are caused by the normal people around her and the fights are where she's more at home. It's an interesting shift in tone for the "Kick-Ass" world, but it works.
It's just a shame that it's being released chronologically out of order. Had this come out between the two "Kick-Ass" series, it would have been perfectly placed for readers to speculate on how Hit-Girl might be changed by her new situation. As it is, we're hard pressed not to remember that she turns up in "Kick-Ass 2" as basically the same character from the first series.
Still, Romita's artwork is as brilliant as ever, even though he's only doing layouts with Tom Palmer on finishes. The pure storytelling talent shines through every panel and Palmer's contributions don't detract from anything -- indeed, he actually seems to clear up the lines a bit, if anything. White's colors are appropriately grimy, which works for this world. Whatever you think of the writing, the technical talent displayed in the artwork is near-untouchable.
There's definitely a sense that the creative team is in their groove and it's just different enough from "Kick-Ass" that we can avoid calling it a rut. You may not like "Hit-Girl" #1, but you can at least respect it. Funnily enough, that seems quite appropriate.