Written and co-created by Mark Millar
Pencilled and co-created by John Romita Jr
Inks and washes by Tom Palmer
Colours by Dean White
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel
In the blood-soaked aftermath of Kick-Ass 2, Hit Girl is in prison, Kick-Ass is suddenly one of the senior heroes left standing and there are no villains left to fight. The other heroes are getting bored, Dave and his friend Todd are working a dead end job in between patrols and a hero called the Juicer has moved into Hit Girl’s secret headquarters until he can ‘get back on his feet’. Batman never had these problems…
Mark Millar’s work regularly gets accused of having a cruel streak and there are times where that’s true. He’s got a creative eye for horrific violence, emotional and physical, in a way very few other creators have and that can sometimes make his work seem cruel, distant and cold. It’s a surprise then that, whilst Kick-Ass 3 definitely has that cruel streak, here it’s put to use in a far subtler way than you might think. Namely, exploring just how assholeish the superhero community is.
The answer, by the way, is a lot.
This is the most realistic superhero comic you’ll read this month, not because of the painful fragility of the characters but because of how un self-aware they are. For example, Dave has bought into the heroic myth so completely that he has Todd take photos of him brooding in a long coat at graveside. It’s an amazing page with the conversation between the two boys at absolute odds with the imagery. Todd is openly envious of Dave’s tragic hero origin and Dave is so enamoured with the freedom it gives him that he experiments with poses to see which looks coolest. In other words, he’s a boy, at his father’s grave, working out how to look cool. It’s an amazing, self-aware piece of writing about boys who have no idea who they are, just who they think they should be. The fact it’s followed by a montage showing their graduation, Marty leaving to study medicine and Dave and Todd working two jobs only drives the point home. They have nothing, so they live inside a comforting fantasy because it’s more attractive. That’s not so much cruel as utterly dark in a grounded, realistic way.
That realism continues through the rest of the book. One of the other stand out scenes involving Kick-Ass making his dramatic entrance at a pool hall where he and Ass-Kicker (Todd’s sidekick name, of course) have made so many dramatic entrances that the patrons are just annoyed they’re getting in the way of the games. Still another sees Kick-Ass fail to persuade the Juicer, a slacker superhero who’s moved into Hit Girl’s HQ to move out. The Juicer’s doing the same thing Dave is, hiding inside the comforting four-colour lie of his superhero identity so he doesn’t have to face the world. The only difference is, he’s embraced that safety wholesale whilst Dave is still, at least nominally, patrolling. Despite this, Dave has much more in common with the Juicer than he may want to admit. They’re both hiding, both deluding themselves and neither will be able to do so for long.
The book never misses an opportunity to point out the fragility and absurdity of the characters’ choices and the opening scene arguably demonstrates that best. Hit Girl has left strict instructions on how to break her out and the opening scenes find every hero in town getting ready to bust her out. They sneak up to the prison, realize how tall the wall is and the guards are coming and…run. All Mindy’s plans evaporate because everyone else is too cowardly to risk their lives for her, instead deciding to come back when they’ve had more ‘training’. They’re playing at heroes again, and, just like it’s done before, that’s going to cost them, probably in blood.
This is one of the strongest opening issues I’ve seen Millar write, and John Romita Jr is similarly at the top of his game. The failed prison break and graveyard scenes are beautifully atmospheric and Romita Jr’s character design excels at showing how normal and fragile the characters are. Tom Palmer and Dean White’s inks and colours are similarly impressive, using shadow and light to emphasize the normality of the characters and the absurdity of their actions. Chris Eliopoulos’ lettering perfectly communicates the rhythm of the dialogue and the end result is a really tight, strong opening issue. There is no way on Earth that Hit-Girl is going to stay locked up, and similarly no way this is going to end particularly well for Dave. What is certain is that Millar has rarely been on better form than he is here. Kick-Ass’ final act could be its best. Based on this issue, it’s certainly going to be its darkest.