COMIC REVIEW: KICK-ASS 3 / AUTHOR: MARK MILLAR / ARTIST: JOHN ROMITA JR. / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
As a great man in a great film once said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” Comic book nights don't get much darker than Kick-Ass 2, an unpleasant, typically Mark Millar one-two punch of doggy beheadings and gang rape. Even the movie adaptation, largely played for laughs, struggled with its tone and more distasteful behaviour, resulting in one of last year's most disappointing comic book sequels. And last year was the year of the highly divisive Iron Man 3 (I liked it, for the record).
While the old saying goes that 'the only way is up', Kick-Ass 3 could have potentially gone even worse; the continued (over) exposure of Hit Girl, the introduction of Chris's mob boss uncle, and the temptation by Millar and Romita to go bigger and harder for the sequel. While the duo certainly don't disappoint in their usual dose of ultraviolence, swearing and cultural references, the opposite is almost true of Kick-Ass 3. There's less of almost everything which made its immediate predecessor feel so grubby. There are less costumes, less cruelties and – crucially – less Hit Girl. Wee Mindy still makes an enormous impact on the story (and rightfully so) but having her imprisoned for the majority of the tale lets Dave once again reclaim the centre stage.
It's a surprisingly scaled-back story, with Kick-Ass instead battling his own impending maturity rather than the returned Chris D'Amico or his mob boss uncle, and Hit Girl mostly locked away in prison, undergoing state therapy from a fellow who looks distractingly like Walter White. Still, the pair's battle with the mob ensures that Dave's burgeoning love life doesn't get the action derailed too much, with all of the characteristic violence and nihilism we've all come to expect from the series to date. As ever, Romita's art is the highlight, being as vibrant and as exciting as it's ever been. Sure, his depiction of youngsters is mostly terrible (too many of Dave's friends look like hook-nosed middle-aged midgets, while Mindy could easily pass for a 40-year-old woman and lover of Lambini) but when everything else is so great, that's easily forgiven. Millar's writing is... well, typical Millar writing, but it serves the story well here. His eye on the movie adaptation at least leaves Kick-Ass 3 feeling properly conclusive and cinematic. There's a post-credits sequence and everything.
Like the rest of the trilogy, it has its problems. Poor Katie – so savagely attacked by the Mother Fucker and his friends – is completely forgotten, the supporting characters largely unmemorable and underwritten. Even its Big Bad fails to impress, being but an uglier redo of Chris's gangster dad. While Big Daddy makes a flashback cameo, there's no-one to match him or Colonel Stars and Stripes in terms of entertainment value (its schlubby superhero goes nowhere) and Millar's Batman: Year One 'homage' winds up utterly ill-advised. Still, at least it's better than Kevin Smith's 'official' version (supported by DC, no less) and it is gratifying to see Kick-Ass finally get to, well, kick ass.
Kick-Ass 3 is a surprisingly successful close to Millar and Romita's trilogy, managing to bring the story to a close without too much nihilism or grot, instead being a fun, mostly uplifting romp that massively outshines its predecessor in spite of not nearly being so busy with its story or action. It looked a little dubious there in the middle, but Kick-Ass has successfully turned it around in time for the end. Kick-Ass indeed.
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