It must be good times in the Millar household; Kingsman did well at the box office and the final part of the Kick-Ass trilogy is now out in collected edition. But does this last tale of Dave Lizewski warrant a big smile from its readers as well as its creators?
Mark Millar and John Romita’s mega-selling series returns for its final story! Hit-Girl is in jail, leaving Kick-Ass to lead the super hero team Justice Forever. But super heroes have been outlawed, leaving Kick-Ass to dodge both cops and some terrifying new foes! For the first time, Kick-Ass is beginning to have doubts. Is he in too deep to get out?
What I’ve always liked about Kick-Ass is the sense of realism. Obviously there’s still suspension of disbelief required to buy into the premise of the book and its protagonist’s continued survival, but I get a strong feeling that the individual characters act like human beings rather than idealised archetypes. For me this explains why I liked the book of Kick-Ass but not the film, at the pivotal moment where our hero reveals that he’s straight to his would-be girlfriend she has him beaten bloody for his deception and manipulation…whereas in the film her response was to have sex with him in an alley. Kick-Ass 3 sticks much closer to the spirit of the original and when Dave finds himself with a girlfriend who likes him as much, if not more, than Kick-Ass his priorities change and he drops out of the vigilante game.
The actions of a group of bent cops lead the Mob to declare war on all costumed vigilantes, and the body count soon begins to rack up. This coincides with the relationship-induced retirement that Dave finds himself in, and he’s inevitably drawn back into a fight which promises to give a final conclusion to his battles with the Genovese family that go all the way back to the first series.
I can’t say that I find the characters in the book likeable, even Dave is deeply flawed and Mindy continues to be very broken, but I enjoyed the way in which their story wrapped up. The last issue is slightly preachy but does give a good explanation of how comics can by both aspirational and inspirational for children, you can see Millar’s love of the medium on the page. There’s a lot of call-back to the first issues which works really well, I’m hoping they resist the temptation to go back to the well for a fourth series.
There are some nice references, both subtle and blatant, to other comics. A running plotline involves the heroes wanting to re-enact the dinner scene from Batman: Year One and Dave’s desertion of the Kick-Ass identity calls on the imagery of the famous Spider-Man No More. In fact there are also direct references to Marvel properties like Spider-Man, which also exist as fictional characters in this universe, one upside of this being originally published via Marvel’s Epic imprint no doubt. The book also establishes itself firmly as part of the Millarverse with references to the events of Nemesis and The Secret Service.
The continual letdown of every Kick-Ass series is Romita JR’s art. He’s an artist I used to love during his Spider-Man run but as his style has changed over the years it now feels like all the characters are stunted and made out of Play-Doh. Kick-Ass is established as eighteen in this story, but he’s drawn as if he’s pre-pubescent, he’s hardly taller than Hit Girl who is about 5 yrs younger than him. You could argue he’s a scrawny late-developer, but we see him working out extensively earlier in the book and he seems physically capable of fighting and in some cases over-powering grown men. I know he was meant to have nerve damage that gave him an insanely high tolerance for pain but this feels like the story wanting to have it both ways. While the character designs are great the book lacks dynamism, the violence is rendered bloodily but there’s no sense of movement. It’s a real let down.
Artwork aside I’m looking forward to a read-through of the entire three-volume set. If you felt a little letdown by the second film or series I think it’s worth jumping back in to read this conclusion.
Title: Kick-Ass 3
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: Dave W