Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Kick-Ass 3

Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. Kick-Ass 3 (2014)
Kick-Ass, as you will almost certainly be aware, is Mark Millar's real world superhero, or at least one of them - a comic book about a teenager who would be Spiderman but for there being no such thing as superpowers developed after being bitten by a radioactive spider; and there's no such thing as a superpower either, just like in our world. This leaves our kid to fight crime by means of hitting people with a stick whilst wearing a ski-mask, and so there are more kickings, beatings, bruisings, fractures than you might have been led to expect from a Fantastic Four comic, and a lot more blood, and some of it is pretty fucking horrible because that's how violence works. Kick-Ass can therefore be read as a particularly lurid slab of gratuitously graphic violence written by a man who probably ruined a keyboard roughly every two days through drooling into it. It all seems very irresponsible.

On the other hand, no-one is about to uninvent superhero comics; so given that they exist, and that there's still no sign of the trend for discussion-based confrontations by which the Punisher and the Kingpin might sit down for a cup of tea and a bit of a natter, if you're going to have graphic violence, then it's probably more responsible to show it as it is, or would be - painful and unpleasant. This may be incidental to Millar's intent which, I suspect, may be influenced by Chinese martial arts cinema as much as anything, specifically the sort of martial arts cinema in which assassins despatch their hapless foes by increasingly ludicrous means - like the poor fucker whose head is pierced through the centre by a single blade of grass in Eastern Condors. The violence of such films, or at least the few I've seen, whilst often improbable, is usually gruesome, and yet comes to occupy a position tantamount to choreography within the narrative.

I think this may be what Millar is going for, or at least some from column A and some from column B. He's accrued something of a reputation for stomach-churning shock effect, the narrative equivalent of rape jokes, and although he's crossed the line a few times, I genuinely believe that mostly he gets it just about right, excepting a few cases such as that of The Ultimates. This isn't to say that it's all just innocent fun and his critics need to grow a sense of humour, but that there's usually some point to his atrocities, or at least a point beyond shock and sales.

Kick-Ass 3 is surprisingly subdued considering what has gone before, although it may simply be that we're now accustomed to fountains of blood and a threat of castration every four pages. Most of the really big shocks and surprises have already occurred in previous volumes, so it makes sense that there wouldn't be much point going for an even bigger and bloodier spectacle in this one, and it therefore concentrates on the ordinary lives of its extraordinary people, how they are affected by the world in which they live - which is actually all the comic ever tried to do anyway. So Dave gets a girlfriend and does some growing up, and Mindy comes out of it in one piece, and the bad guys lose, and despite all of that which cannot be unseen, we close with a genuine shock - a feel-good ending, the shock being how well it works and how wonderfully it all pulls together in view of the innards-strewn path already travelled; and the resulting realisation of how long it's been since anything ended on this sort of uptempo note without feeling like manipulative hokum. It's not exactly a climatic conclusion to Kick-Ass, but it's exactly the ending it needed.

Also, the art is wonderful.

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