PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Review: Kick-Ass 2 Prelude – Hit-Girl / Author: Mark Millar / Artist: John Romita Jr, Tom Palmer / Publisher: Titan / Release Date: Out Now

As the title suggests, this spin-off is neatly placed to lead the way into the new Kick-Ass 2 movie, due in cinemas in July. Deadly 12-year-old assassin Hit-Girl is happily ensconced with her Mum and stepfather, but there's still some unfinished business. For starters, she has a “shit list” of crime bosses to be offed. Plus – and here's where her superhero skills are really tested – there are tons of catty comments from her classmates at school to deal with. “I've shot people, choked people,” she muses, “why can't I handle these bitches?”

Luckily, she has a loyal sidekick in the verdant warrior Kick-Ass, and most of the fun comes from her attempts to lick him into shape. Cue lessons in crashing through windows (“a superhero tradition”) and honing iconic lines. And how does she sneak out of the house without her folks noticing? “That's why God invented Rohypnol.”

Even Kick-Ass, though, has his doubts about her trigger-happy approach to crime-busting. “I thought we agreed you weren't going to kill anybody. I'm not an angst-ridden guy. I'm an old-school public service type.” So perhaps it's just as well that he's out of action with a broken hand most of the time, leaving her to sally forth solo on her gory crusade. 

Mark Millar is on typically brilliant form, strewing each page with quotable dialogue and wittily conceived characters. Would-be arch-nemesis Chris/Red Mist crops up in a particularly hilarious subplot which sees him attempting to perform the first super-crime, then, when that doesn't work out, deciding he's going to “travel the world like Bruce Wayne... learn a dozen languages, become a brilliant scientist, bulk up some serious muscle and buy a shitload of gadgets.” “Wear your sunscreen,” his uncle advises him.

Clever, funny, edgy – Hit-Girl is all these things. But it's not exactly lovable. To begin with, the art's a bit of an eyesore. It makes sense, in terms of undercutting the stylized glossiness of your average comic, that Kick-Ass should be depicted as a beak-nosed geek. But what's going on with the way John Romita Jr draws Hit-Girl – why the massive head and stunted limbs? Congrats to him if he was trying to avoid making her look cute, because he's certainly succeeded on that score. But she's not remotely realistic either.

And then there's the violence. We don't care how hardened a comic buff you are, the sight of a 12-year-old girl dispatching goons with such gleeful sadism (“I've got all the time in the world to finish you off, but what would be the coolest way to do do it?”) can't help but leave a bad taste in your mouth. It's this aggressive need to shock which ultimately stops Hit-Girl from kicking ass.

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