Monday, November 22, 2010

Kick-Ass 2 #1

What could there possibly be to dislike about a series that invites us to passionately "taste the awesome" right there on the front cover? Yes, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. are back in the saddle, resuming the saga of the miniscule home grown superhero wannabe, Kick-Ass, in their own inimitable way.

This new series picks up an indiscriminately short time after the conclusion of the first. The basic premise is still the same: nerdy kid wants to become a superhero, buys a jumpsuit and nunchucks online, rushes out to the streets and quickly discovers that he’s in over his head. Minus the few casualties of the first series, the cast is also virtually unchanged. Dave, the title character, is still a comic-obsessed geek-by-day and a punishment-absorbing random crime fighter in the evenings. Mindy (aka Hit-Girl), the potty-mouthed scene-stealer from the second act of the original series, has become a part of police detective Marcus Williams’s family and secretly begun training Kick-Ass as her sidekick. The rest of the supporting cast is still along for the ride, too: Dave’s arch-nemesis the Red Mist, his geeky high school running buddies, the longtime object of his lust, Katie… it’s as close to a return to normalcy as the series could ever really achieve.

In practice, that quest for a reassuring starting point actually works against the book’s identity. A lot of the charm of that first run was in the unusually quick pace it managed to keep up from the very first issue. There was a constant flavor of wonder mixed with adrenaline, a real sense that the cast was walking along a tightrope on every page. That’s missing from this issue, where the theme of the day seems to be illustrating just how commonplace a back-alley brawl has already become for these guys. Millar grants us a few genuinely amusing moments in the dialog, generally any time Dave’s fanboy civilian pals are on the page, but on the large this issue is strictly business – cleaning up the lingering mess, setting the pins back up and giving us a peek at what’s barreling down the alley to knock them all down again.

Moving forward with this series minus co-creator John Romita Jr. would have been a mistake. His distinctive artwork had just as much to do with establishing these characters and their world as the way they were written, so it’s great to see him back at the reigns for the follow-up. Bearing that in mind, Romita’s customary attention to detail and sharp, polished compositions aren’t up to his usual level in this issue. JRJr’s still got a firm grasp on Kick-Ass himself, a rail-thin kid stuffed into a jumpsuit that’s still somehow too small for him, but there’s something off about the rest of the issue’s occupants. Many of them seem over-simplified and unusually proportioned, a flaw that’s particularly noticeable when Mindy appears to sprout a giant Barbie doll head late in the issue. It’s unquestionably Romita, so take that for what it’s worth, but it’s also not the most complete effort I’ve ever seen him deliver.

The first issue of Dave Lizewski’s second adventure is a relatively passive one. It’s nice to check in with so many of the characters that provided gasoline for the fire of the first series, but it feels odd to see so many of them relegated to mere business as usual. Every great adventure begins with a single step, as they say, but let’s hope the next chapter speeds us up to a healthy jog. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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