Kick-Ass the graphic novel

With the film adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s graphic novel Kick-Ass about to open in theaters, I picked up the book to see what it was all about. I'd seen the disturbing, high-intensity trailer back in December, and I wanted to read the story before I got to the movies. Having read it — ploughing through it in a non-stop, intense hour — I'm pretty psyched to see the flick!

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski, an average high-school student headed for nothing much in life, who decides that rather than aspiring to being a pop-star or a great athlete, he'll become a super-hero. Why not? So he orders a scuba wet-suit, gets a couple of batons, and sets to work fighting crime.

He doesn't fare so well. Almost immediately, he receives a near-crippling beat-down that hospitalizes him and and nearly bankrupts his hardworking single father. He swears off vigilantism, only to be lured back out of retirement by the appearance of a copycat ("The Red Mist"), another caped "hero" who scores several high-profile criminal empires and attains even greater fame than "Kick-Ass"(Lizewski's super alterego), eclipsing his MySpace page and his Google pagerank.

Quickly, Kick-Ass ends up in a near-terminal situation, only to be rescued by a ten-year-old girl ("Hit-Girl"), who slaughters the bad guys who're about to kill him, dispatching them with a ninja sword and a great deal of bravada. The homicidal pair vanish, leaving Kick-Ass feeling inadequate and worried.

But not for long — quickly, Kick-Ass finds himself confronting the Red Mist, who turns out to be a megafan of his, and the two of them pair off as a super-duo.

The story rockets along — it's essentially one long flashback, beginning with Lizewski tied to a chair by bad guys who're electrocuting his testicles — and comes to an extremely satisfying conclusions. It's a neat and bloody commentary on the mythos of superheroism and vigilantism, and while the contrast between Hit-Girl's innocence and violence is an exploitative trick, it's also a very powerful one, that works to get you thinking about the nature of the "heroes" who fill our four-color dreams.

The end of the book identifies it as the first volume, but even so, it draws to a very neat conclusion that won't leave you feeling cheated.