Kick-Ass: Graphic Novel and Expectations for the Upcoming Movie
March 18, 2010
I was browsing through the Graphic Novel section at Borders last week, and couldn’t help but notice a solid black hardcover with the yellow print Kick-Ass on the side. I’d seen the trailers for the film version, heard about the comic, but never seen it in stores before. After weighing my options between Wanted, Kick-Ass, and adding another Batman comic to my already Batman dominated bookshelf, I just had to see what Kick-Ass was all about. Written by Mark Millar (Wanted, Civil War) and Penciled by John Romita Jr. (Amazing Spider-Man, and anything Marvel), Kick-Ass delivers humor, excitement, profanity, and buckets of blood. Everything you’d expect from the title, huh? I’ve seen the movie Wanted (never read it), but noticed some similarities in the story and writing style.
(If you’ve seen the movie trailer, then I won’t be giving anything away in this plot synopsis.)
Kick-Ass features a pathetically normal teenage boy who’s bored to death with his pathetically normal life. Dave Lizewski lives with his single dad, crushes on his biology teacher, fakes being gay in order to hang out with the class hottie, and comic-books are his only source of inspiration. But one day he’s just lonely enough to do something about it: he makes himself a superhero costume. And gets his butt kicked. Repeatedly. The ironic thing is the superhero Kick-Ass seems to do just the opposite of his name. He doesn’t have any powers, he isn’t a skilled combatant, he isn’t good at anything, he’s just a kid with a heart big enough to put on a mask and do some good. Fortunately for him, one of his successful endeavors is witnessed, videotaped, and ends up on YouTube. Quickly turning into a cultural phenomenon, Kick-Ass becomes the very first superhero with his own MySpace page. Trying to live up to his ideals, the young vigilante ends up with more than he can handle. His endeavors cause several new masked heroes to follow in his footsteps. Where Kick-Ass draws the line at, well, kicking ass, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy begin systematically executing the mob. In way over his head, teenage Dave Lizewski has to simply survive in the world he created.
Since I’d seen the movie trailers, I felt like Kick-Ass didn’t pack the same effect it could have. A great deal of its excitement and intrigue comes from the appearance of other masked vigilantes. Hit-Girl and Red Mist’s appearance could have been a great surprise, but I expected it. It was still enjoyable, but I wasn’t really surprised by much until the final act (the part not covered in the trailer). Yeah, yeah, perhaps I’m being a troll, but I just like being SURPRISED okay? I purposefully avoided all the Watchmen trailers before I had finished reading the graphic novel, and will continue to do the same whenever possible. It doesn’t help that in the past few years trailers have been insistent on literally outlining the first two acts of the plot (Hancock being a good example). I did really enjoy Kick-Ass, but I think I would have liked it more not knowing where it was headed.
Kick-Ass is nicely set in modern times, featuring references to YouTube, MySpace, the TV show Heroes, and plenty of fanboy jokes. Mark Millar sure knows his superheroes, mentioning everyone from Batman to Green Goblin. We get Hit-Girl using a famous battle cry from The Fantastic Four and Red Mist patrolling in his Mustang while listening to Danny Elfman. Kick-Ass isn’t just for fanboys, it’s written by one too. The artwork is fantastic. Since John Romita Jr. did so much work with Amazing Spider-Man, his style suits the “Peter Parker fanboy” feel extremely well.
I’d love to tell you that Kick-Ass is a great story about a goodhearted fanboy who lives out his dream by putting on a mask. Well, okay, maybe I could tell you that. What I couldn’t tell you is that Kick-Ass is a clean, heartwarming, fun for the whole family “with great power comes great responsibility” type thing, cause it’s totally not. Kick-Ass is brutal. The profanity is frequent, the dialog perverse, the violence frequent, and the gore in buckets. The dialog captures how teenagers (and the mob) really talk, peppering their conversations with frequent f-bombs and colorful metaphors. I’m used to action and violence in my graphic novels, but Kick-Ass takes it to a whole new level with decapitations, broken body parts, disembowelment’s, and the cliché “brains blown out”. Gore is all over the fight scenes. But this is the point; Kick-Ass doesn’t hold anything back. It’s visceral.
I enjoyed Kick-Ass, I really did. I liked the story of an ordinary kid who puts on a mask and tries to do some good. I liked how his adventures develop from stopping graffiti artists to a head on collision with the mob. The character development is captivating and the setting unique. But its adult content is just not my cup of tea. I don’t mind the blood and violence of a superhero plot like The Dark Knight Returns, but the frequent f-words, occasional nudity, and several over-the-top-gory deaths went beyond what I wanted. Sure, somebody can get executed by a bullet to the brain, but do we need to see a closeup of it happening? There’s just too much mature content for me to recommend Kick-Ass to the average comic book fan.
What to expect from the Movie:
Despite my complaints about spoilers earlier, Kick-Ass does have a pretty sweet trailer.
Drawing upon my experience with the movie Wanted, Kick-Ass is another staple of Mark Millar. He sets up a pathetically normal guy who is just so bored with life that he’s ready to do something legendarily stupid. Like join a league of assassins, or here, putting on a superhero mask. The dialog is profane and the violence is stylized with lots of blood, but there’s a unique quality about it. It follows this ordinary kid into a world where he tries to make a difference. There’s enough realism to keep you thinking “hey, that could be me”, but enough style to hold you in awe. His writing and pacing are all very good, and it looks like Kick-Ass will make the transfer from comic book to silver screen very well.
The movie is directed by Matthew Vaughn (Director: Stardust. Producer: Snatch), who is relatively new to directing but after Stardust I think he’s got the charm to pull off Kick-Ass. There’s a whole list of writers here, but with Mark Millar on the team, I’m sure the script is good. In fact, the movie rights to Kick-Ass were sold before the first issue was even published. Looks like Mark Millar knew this was going to be film-worthy.
Though mostly unfamiliar, the cast looks like a riot. This could be the first movie where fanboys actually like Nicolas Cage as a superhero. Aaron Johnson has the perfect voice for Dave (Kick Ass) Lizewski, and Chloe Moretz appears absolutely vicious as HitGirl. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin) is a fantastic choice for Red-Mist. I’m very pleased with the casting here.
With McLovin in the cast, it’s no surprise that the movie trailers have people thinking Kick-Ass is just Superbad with masks. Or maybe whoever made Mystery Men saw The Watchmen and got an idea for a comedy. This is definitely not the case, and it sure ain’t Superbad OR Mystery Men. If you’re considering seeing Kick-Ass, I highly recommend watching the Red Band trailers first. There is a level of profanity and violence to Kick-Ass that you don’t get to see in the regular trailers. Due to the R-rated content, I won’t post a link to the Redband trailer here. Oh come on, you’re gonna get mad at me because I didn’t post a link? Are you really so lazy that you can’t just type “Kick-Ass Red Band Trailer” into a google search? Okay, kidding aside, the two Red Band trailers give you a much better idea of what the movie is going to be like. And from what I see in the trailer, it looks like the violence has been taken up a notch from the graphic novel but the excessive blood removed.
To sum it up: Kick-Ass isn’t for the faint hearted in either its book and movie form. It’s humorous and gritty and shameless fanboy birthday cake. I’m expecting to walk out of Kick-Ass feeling thoroughly entertained but possibly like my brain needs a moist towelette.