Comic Review: Kick-Ass 2 / Writer: Mark Millar / Art: John Romita Jr. / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
Kick-Ass 2 is as gloriously gory and action packed as the previous volume, though it isn’t without its flaws. Writer Mark Millar once again delivers a masterfully paced story that paints a gritty, realistic picture of what would happen if real-life costumed vigilantes took to the streets.
Reading story arcs in collected trades is usually preferable in order to save oneself from the heartbreak of waiting, but each issue still satisfies on its own. Individual issues read more like chapters in a book, but not the kind that leave you wanting.
As the heroes and villains of the story up the ante – forming teams like Justice Forever and the evil Toxic Mega C***s – Kick-Ass inches closer to becoming a conventional costumed vigilante narrative. However, the freshness of the first volume is missing, as spandex-clad do-gooders and scoundrels become as ubiquitous as they are in Gotham City. Most never rise above their wannabe status, and their minor acts of good are eclipsed by Hit-Girl’s continued badassery.
The real hero of the book is artist John Romita Jr., whose full-page splashes send the blood and guts leaping off the page. Romita makes visual story telling look effortless, conveying entire scenes in half a page worth of panels. Clever line work can speak louder than words when done right and Romita certainly does it right.
The series’ second volume is all about raising the stakes, but Millar loses major points for using rape as a plot device to create angst for the eponymous almost-hero. In Kick-Ass’ original eight-issue run, Millar had displayed a less than refined sensibility when it came to casual racism and misogyny. These days, it’s rare for a comic book not to be problematic in some fashion so it was easier to forgive Millar’s occasional trespasses. Not so in Kick-Ass 2, in which the Red Mist takes on a new moniker (the Mother-F***er) and orchestrates a brutal gang rape.
We know the villain formerly known as Red Mist is evil. Prior to the aforementioned sexual assault, the Mother-F***er (an accurate title if there ever was one) had just opened fire on a pack of grade-schoolers while grinning like a loon. We didn’t need a rape to understand just how vile he is. It’s weak. It’s boring. It’s overdone. Simply put, it’s lazy writing. I know Millar can do better than that, so it’s sad to see him resort to one of the most overused tropes in comics in a book that’s all about subverting the expected. As one of the Mother-F***er’s minions says: “Oh my God. We’ve gone too far this time. Even for us.” While Millar wrote those words, he evidently failed to heed them.