Review published on July 16, 2012.Reviewed by Erin Britton
Kick-Ass began with a simple idea: why couldn’t a pretty tragically average comic book fan transform himself into a real life superhero? To Dave Lizewski’s mind there was no reason at all and so, armed with a pair of batons and unencumbered by training of any kind, he took to the streets. Of course, we all know that his immediate reward for this brave deed was a severe ass-whooping and a lengthy stay in intensive care. However, Dave wasn’t one to admit defeat easily and so, as soon as his bones were sufficiently knitted, he donned the mantle of Kick-Ass again. With a little help from turbo tween Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass eventually succeeded in taking down the Mafia and becoming a total YouTube sensation.
Kick-Ass made wearing a mask fashionable and so it’s no surprise that what Kick-Ass did for superheroes, Kick-Ass 2 does for super-teams. Dave Lizewski’s antics inspired hundreds of people to craft their own superhero personas and suddenly Kick-Ass found himself with a plethora of ass-kicking colleagues. The big leagues are calling and so in Kick-Ass 2 Kick-Ass goes ahead and joins superhero team Justice Forever. It’s just as well that he’s got this extra muscle backing him since, while Hit-Girl is trying to survive an enforced retirement, Kick-Ass isn’t the only mask returning from the first volume: Red Mist is back from his jaunt around Europe and – rechristened as The Mother Fucker and assisted by the brutal assassin Mother Russia – is intent on avenging the death of his father and creating his own evil empire.
There were two major differences between Kick-Ass the book and Kick-Ass the film – one concerning the true character of Big Daddy and the other involving Kick-Ass’s relationship with Katie – and so certain bits of Kick-Ass 2 may be puzzling to those who didn’t read the first volume but want to follow Dave Lizewski’s story on after seeing the film. Seriously, however much you love the film, it’s more than worth your time to have a read of Kick-Ass. Aside from the plot changes, the film was also quite different in tone from the original comics and Kick-Ass 2 continues along this much darker road.
Kick-Ass 2 is another brilliantly brutal story from Mark Millar. Millar has continued to do a great job of portraying the allure that superheroes hold for average folks and of the sense of great power and responsibility [sorry, couldn’t resist] that accompanies the decision to don a mask. Dave Lizewski remains a generally loveable loser despite his ball-busting prowess but many of his superhero compadres are just tragic wannabes. Sure Justice Forever involves some heavy-hitters but even they don’t loads bullets in their guns. There are a lot more people wanting to do the right thing than are actually capable of doing it.
However, in Kick-Ass 2 Millar has taken this “Average Joe let loose with a pointy weapon” scenario and has amped it right up. They’re not just superheroes anymore, they’re super-teams and so the level of violence [and, indeed, rampant swearing] has increased ten-fold. In-keeping with this, the baddies are a hell of a lot badder this time round. Red Mist/The Mother Fucker and his gang – the gloriously named Toxic Mega-Cunts – make John Genovese seem positively saintly. The big showdown in Time Square is an epic battle worthy of any superhero comic but be prepared for plenty of gritty horror and brutality on the road to the finale.
The only disappointment in Kick-Ass 2 was the treatment that Hit-Girl received. While she does eventually get to step up and show the big boys how ass-kicking should really be done, Hit-Girl spends a lot of the story trying to adapt to being little old Mindy. When she does show up, it seems that some of her dialogue is played more for laughs than badassery. Hit-Girl is arguably the greatest character to emerge from the Kick-Ass mythology and she really deserved better. However, there is a bright spot in the horizon in this regard: apparently Kick-Ass 2 is in fact book three in the Kick-Ass series with the forthcoming book two concentrating on Hit-Girl’s story. No date for that yet unfortunately.
Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass 2 is a delightful mix of extreme violence and deep dark humour. John Romita’s art is typically sublime: his action scenes are truly hardcore while his characters display some seriously brutal emotions. The world they have created is recognisably the real world but with some seriously fucked-up [see, bad language really is infectious] shocks and twists thrown in. No one escape from Kick-Ass 2 unscathed.
Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce