KICK-ASS #1 by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Kick-Ass returns to bookshelves with a new main character and a new brand of bloody superheroing. Despite some visual and plot hiccups, KICK-ASS #1 hits the mark with its lead protagonist, Patience, whose realism and sense of self-perseverance sets her apart from other characters in the medium.
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Reviving The Legend
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As comic book fans, we’ve all dreamed of the day we’d get our own superpowers and head out into the streets to fight crime. However, those powers never came. We just went about our days continuing to be normal. That didn’t stop Dave Lizewski, the protagonist of Mark Millar’s original KICK-ASS series. Despite being beaten, shot, stabbed, and constantly pushed within an inch of his life, Dave consistently fought the good fight. Now, a new hero, Patience, has taken up the mantle in KICK-ASS #1, written by Millar with art by John Romita Jr.

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New Mexico native Patience thought coming home from Afghanistan would be a good day. Returning to her family, she had plans of going to school for engineering and living a long, happy life away from war. Her return home, though, isn’t as happy as she hoped. Her husband has left her for another woman, leaving Patience alone with two kids. Out of sorts and unable to find a job, Patience turns down the only path she sees. Donning the costume of a superhero, Patience takes the fight to Hoops, a local gang leader, in hopes of stealing his money. However, when she’s captured by Hoops’ men, things start to spiral out of control for the strong-willed veteran.

Power In Patience

KICK-ASS #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

One of the best elements of the KICK-ASS movies was Dave’s superhero learning curve. While a stand-up guy, Dave spent his days at the comic book shop, not the gym. As an everyday human teenager, he had the heart, but none of the skills, needed for the job. It made the character that much more relatable, and it provided for some rather intense storytelling sequences. Because of this, I had my doubts about Patience. Putting someone with such obvious physical prowess into the KICK-ASS superhero role seemed to negate the entire point of the story. More importantly, her entire motivation for dressing up had a far less moral edge than Dave’s. With all of these differences between the two, I believed Patience would be a let-down for the series.

Thank god I was wrong. Patience is one of the best characters to come to modern comics. Not only does she represent African Americans and women with brilliant power, she also represents a subset of humanity that receives very little exposure: veterans. Patience has seen war, but it isn’t her PTSD at the center of the story. Rather, her struggles reintegrating into society take center stage. As a black single mother without a college degree living in an incredibly poor neighborhood, her options are limited. With that comes intense relatability. Not only that, but her motivations make more sense than Dave Lizewski’s. Patience is playing Robin Hood against the crime lords of the city to support her family and the others in her neighborhood. In short, Patience is a hero I can get behind.

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Trope And Terror

Kick-Ass #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

I have a love-hate relationship with the plot of KICK-ASS #1. On the one hand, the events of this story are incredibly relevant and grounded. I love the long focus on Patience’s personal life. It gives her initial struggles and an added realism. More importantly, the dialogue and the character interactions just make sense. Despite the fact that superheroes do make appearances in this world, it’s just a facsimile of our own. It’s a twisted mirror reflection, one that isn’t afraid to address the utter brutality of war and the streets. More importantly, the action sequences in KICK-ASS #1 are some of Millar’s absolute best, clipping along at a nice pace without leaving out important details.

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On the other hand, the plot feels a bit muddied by the order of events. I understand the draw of starting with an event before immediately flashing back to the past. It creates a certain intensity, and normally I’m willing to look past this kind of storytelling decision. However, in KICK-ASS #1, I don’t feel that it’s necessary. We start off seeing Patience in costume, captured by Hoops’ thugs. Then, immediately, we dial back to her time in Afghanistan.

For me, the opening “how did I get myself into this” scene doesn’t feel at all necessary. The plot could have benefited far more from a sense of mystery. It just felt like a cheap trick here. We already know Patience will be Kick-Ass from the cover alone, and her time in the military already has potent intensity. The payoff would be greater if Millar waited to put her behind the mask.

The Man, The Myth, The Junior

Kick-Ass #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

As for the art, if you have been following comics for any length of time, you have probably seen John Romita Jr.’s work. While iconic, I’ve never quite taken to his style. I don’t know if it’s the anatomical stylization or the very gritty details, but I have never been a huge fan. This isn’t a shot against the artist. I recognize his talent and wholly respect his long career in the business. His style simply isn’t my favorite in the great sea of comic book history.

However, I can’t say the same for KICK-ASS #1. In fact, I have to say the complete opposite. Romita Jr.’s work on this issue is incredible. The sense of atmosphere, of emotion, that his pencils give to every single page wowed me. This deep feeling of weightiness, perfect for this brutally realistic story, hit me with every pencil stroke. There are a few pages and panels where his style just doesn’t ring true with me, but that’s just personal taste more than anything. KICK-ASS #1 made me see why John Romita Jr. is one of the most respected names in modern comics, and I hope to see more of his work in later issues.

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Final Thoughts: KICK-ASS #1

For an opening issue, KICK-ASS #1 ticked off all of the boxes. The visual style gives the story a weighty groundedness that fits the overall aesthetic of Millar’s bleak world. Despite my aversion to the flashforward technique, the plot has a nice overall flow. The greatest standout, though, comes in the form of Patience. As a black veteran and single mother, Patience ticks off a number of important boxes in terms of representation. Most importantly, she feels like a living, breathing human being. She doesn’t just feel like she fits a gap. Patience is the perfect character to head this next chapter in the KICK-ASS comics, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

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