Written by Mark Millar with art by John Romita Jr
Review by Jason Taggart
I have an unbiased view of Kick-Ass because I stumbled upon it by accident. I was unaware of it as a comic and was unaware that it was about to be a BLOCKBUSTER movie. I saw the trade paperback, noticed it was drawn by John Romita Jr and thought I’d check it out. I’d never hear of Mark Millar at the time, so the name had no influence over me. I loved Kick -Ass, it was a breath of fresh air.
So I’m in the same boat with Hit-Girl as I was completely unaware that it existed. And once again it’s been a pleasant surprise. Maybe it’s wrong to describe a book that contains so much blood, mutilation and death as pleasant, so I have used the synonym picker on Word and have decided to go with satisfying instead.
Hit-Girl is a satisfying book. You will have to have read Kick-Ass for it to make sense, but I guess that’s academic. Mark Millar tells a good story that’s well paced and delivers what the readers want, which is most likely extreme violence. Kicking off several months after the events in Kick-Ass, (the book, not the movie), our young heroine has moved in with her mom and step dad and is trying to get to grips with normal life. But normal life is difficult to cope with, and bitchy 12 year olds prove to be more of a challenge than a room full of mafia hit men. Add to that all the dilemmas faced by every 12 year old, Hit-Girl’s life seems to be unravelling. Her stepfather, who’s a New York cop knows her dark secret and uses her mother’s delicate emotional state to coerce her into hanging up her cape. But the evil criminal powers want revenge for what she and Kick-Ass did in the last book, and events leave Hit-Girl with little choice but to go on the absolute fucking rampage and kill all the bad guys in an appalling explosion of homicidal carnage, yaaaay!
And that is what sets this book apart from anything else, not the violence itself, but who’s responsible for it. It’s clever because everything about the character is so wrong and yet so right. The fact Mindy is 12 years old makes you feel something for her. She’s young and vulnerable and cares for her mother and stepfather. She wants to be normal a fit in with her class mates. She wants to help Kick-Ass and do what’s right. But most of all she misses her father, who created her, turning her into the vicious killer that she is. And it’s here that we’re introduced to the fact that Hit-Girl is actually psychotic. Thankfully her psychosis only rears up to react to the criminals that she despises, and allows her to go to extreme lengths to end them.
There’s no real depth here. It’s a basic story with stereotypical characters. But there’s enough to keep you gripped, and what’s more it builds you up for what you know is coming next. The story has far more to it than just extreme violence. There is great humour and genuine laugh out loud moments, (Mjolnir), and despite the dark subject matter, the humour isn’t cynical. It’s ludicrous and befitting of the banter that exists between normal, everyday people. The other heroes that turn up in the background will make you laugh at the ridiculous nature of the world they inhabit. Equally, the actions of the bad guys will make you yearn for their untimely demise. And last but not least, the story ends with something to really look forward to in Kick- Ass 2.
John Romita’s artwork, which originally hooked me into buying the first book, is as good as ever. I know his style doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it suits this book perfectly. It’s neither gritty nor comical. The world looks like a comic book, but has an edge to it that gives it a hint or realism. But it’s never so real that the violence offends, although there is detail in there that will make you wince. That said, there are some inconsistencies. There are several panels in the book that just look wrong. There is the usual range of Romita style noses, but sometimes Mindy’s head seems to expand and looks grotesque. There are panels that look half inked and half painted and it’s really weird. Thankfully these oddities are few and far between and can be overlooked.
One gripe I had was that a subtle part of the story lost its impact due to a technical fault. The panels involved were all badly registered and looked blurred. As a result I missed what was going on. I’d be surprised if this fault is present in all the books, but I had to retrace the story to work out why something had happened. Not a big deal.
Finally, the trade paperback, like the original has a nice sturdiness to it. It’s a good quality product. The inclusion of all the original cover artwork is nice, as is the bios on the creative team. Overall, well worth a read.
Available now, published by Titan Publishing/Icon