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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
I loved the original Kick-Ass comic, so much so that I include it on my list of favorite comic book storylines. I loved its satire, humor, and subversive nature. It was something that I never quite read before, and something that will always stay with me. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s follow-up, Kick-Ass 2. After finally getting my hands on the collected edition and reading it all in one sitting, I don’t know what to make of it.
I’ll start off by saying that I didn’t find it terrible. I stayed largely spoiler free, but I had heard rumblings that it was poorly received. I think the story is a worthy follow-up. In it, we see Dave “Kick-Ass” Lizewski’s world had gotten a lot bigger. More heroes are popping up and a new super team, Justice Forever, is formed, with Kick-Ass being a member. At the same time, villains, led by Kick-Ass’s nemesis Red Mist (now, renamed The Motherfucker), begin to appear, ready to cause havoc. Honestly, this is a natural progression from the events of the first series.
The story is your standard “revenge and heroes vs. villains” narrative. It is basic, and that works. Here is my major problem with Kick-Ass 2: it is too violent for its own good. I realize that the first one had its over-the-top violence, but here, it crosses too many lines too quickly, and the story becomes very, very dark (and it refuses to lighten up). There are passages which were…difficult to get through.
Whereas the violence in the first one was somewhat played for a light laugh (usually because the characters brought it on themselves), here we have things such as gang rape, toddlers being gunned down in cold blood, and animal beheadings. You cannot cast any of that in a humorous light. If one of the characters participating in these evil acts comments they’ve gone too far, then you’ve gone too far.
Thing is, I don’t think any of it was needed. You could have had those sequences with the same effect without going that far. As much as I enjoy writer Mark Millar’s work, I cannot understand what was going through his mind when writing this. The level of atrocities was the real sticking point for me.
Moving to a more positive note, I liked how Hit-Girl, the breakout character from the first series, was minimized here. It would have been so easy to focus completely on her to the point that she loses her effectiveness as a character. While she is present throughout the story, she doesn’t really jump into the action until the last two issues. That said there is now a Hit-Girl mini-series out there currently (which takes place between Kick-Ass & Kick-Ass 2). I’m not sure she is a character that can carry her own series as, considering the goofiness of the character, she works best in a limited capacity.
The art here is solid and on-par with the first series. While I neither love nor hate John Romita Jr’s art style, I think it works perfectly for Kick-Ass. I’d be disappointed if he was replaced in a future installment. My only complaint would be that in the sixth issue, a different colorist was used, and it shows. It took me completely out of the story, and it took me a few pages to readjust.
I really don’t know if I would recommend Kick-Ass 2. I didn’t hate it, but I do have some serious concerns over the violent content. If you loved the first one, I’d say go for it. If you were so-so on the first one, skip it. I know they are already in pre-production on a movie adaptation. Personally, I have no idea how they can realistically turn this into a mainstream film. While I am still looking forward to Kick-Ass 3 (which is set to be the concluding chapter), I really hope Millar learns from his missteps here.