To do a Kick Ass 2 review

September 6th, 2010


Clint was found, after a little befuddled craning and turning while doing that exaggerated ‘I am looking for something’ look, not beside the sci-fi/movie/comic mags that the cover tries to pass itself off as, but a whole shelf over, next to the lads mags and Madgadget Monthly. Is this a local thing, slip of shelfstacker’s wrist, or deliberate placement, on WHSmiths’ no-doubt nationally co-ordinated layout plans? This seemed at first like a straight up simple mistake – word with someone in sales, get it sorted for the next issue. But after a read of the Great British boys’ comic’s best last hope… maybe not so sure.

Kick Ass 2 itself, while we’re here, just briefly, looks bright and brash  on the bigger paper, and thanks to that and Millar’s assured ease with the characters and universe it flows along in it’s snappy, irresistibly annoying way and ends far too quickly. Kick Ass’s narrative mode doesn’t allow for 8 mere pages to establish any sort of rhythm, and in that kind of breaks its own most basic belief: More is More. (And here we get less.)


If there’s a good general rule about comic readers, perhaps just a common characteristic that might join them together (and I don’t mean obsessively reading & buying since they were old enough to go to the shops on their own fans, I mean normalish people who might not have decided in advance that comics aren’t for them and they just don’t feel comics at all cheers, but are what you might call ‘interested and sympathetic bystanders’, or ‘potential customers’) then it’s that they think that they are jolly clever sorts. The intellectual conceitedness of either the casual, occasional, weekender or hardcore members of the geek horde is never something to underestimate. Do not talk down to geeks. Do not pretend to geeks that geeks are like everyone else and will be satisfied reading tossed-off, barely literate articles about aspects of the world that they either don’t care about or know more about already. Do not try to convince geeks that they are the lowest common denominator, because they will simply walk to another part of the newsagents and buy a magazine from there.

There are a handful of articles in Clint, maybe 20 pages or so. From a comics point of view this is good – 4/5ths of Clint is pure strip. The articles are there to serve several functions: to extend the reading experience so that a read through of Clint will occupy getting on for an hour of your life, like a proper magazine should. To show to salespeople who might have written off selling comics, but are willing to experiment with a new comic-magazine hybrid. Most importantly, they are to provide a bit of background, real-world context for casual readers of the magazine who don’t understand what its brand is about. In Clint’s case, this means reporting on a world that speaks to the same set of broad interests and impulses that appeals to potential customers, to normalise the fact that what they are holding and reading is basically that most awful of modern things: a comic. They should convey the message: ‘Do you like (e.g.) zombie movies? If so, this comic-magazine is for you!’ And, importantly, essentially, see above, it has to do this without tying a knife to the toe of a size twelve boot and taking a running kick at the ballsack of the readership’s intelligence.

Unfortunately, the articles in Clint are all Doc Martens and Stanley blades. To start with the best, there is a good interview between Martin Mor and Jimmy Carr, and on account of it being structured like a simple, straightforward chat about the ins and outs of being a standup comedian, by two people sharing a lot of experience in the game, you get a good insider’s view of its nuances and details. Then there’s an article about Charles Manson. My wife has been a ghoulish follower of the Manson story ever since her goth days, and even learnt something new about the case regarding the celebrities the Family would have targeted after Tate and Polanski. She has been walking around the house doing an unconvincing Tom Jones impression ever since, saying ‘great load of mad old hippies, runnin’ around trying to chop my clackers off, isn’t it’ in her best Welsh accent. Points to that article for this alone.

The rest though, seriously, they’re barely readable. Without exception dull, poorly written, unimaginative, unoriginal… and for thickos. Not for kids or inexperienced comics readers, just for the world’s legions of grown-up, signed-up, card-carrying thickety-thick thickwit thicky thickos. People, in other words, who don’t read, and don’t want to read, comicbooks. Treating Clint’s readers as if they’re, well, Nuts readers, might be a semi-deliberate editorial decision, and is almost certainly a mistake. There is a big enough market attached to the sci-fi/fantasy hobbyist sector of the newsagent to comfortable accommodate Clint, but buddying up/competing with the terminal decline scaredyman’s wankrags like Nuts and Zoo? That’s a bad decision, one which I can only hope is rectified quickly before Clint becomes yet another noble failure. (Although, if it does stick to this route, the word ‘noble’ won’t really apply, will it?)

The strips themselves… the snippet of Kick Ass 2 we get is a strange thing. Is this a sequel to the first series, or to the movie, or to both? I can’t remember the ending of either well enough to know what details line up with what. That’s cool though – from the off KA was conceived as a multimedia event, desperately happy to cross over into and trample on any platform brave enough to take it on. The franchise’s journey hasn’t left it unchanged – the stresses of the trip from page to screen and back again have toughened it up somehow, made it, and I appreciate this may be difficult to imagine, even more crass. It could be a simple case of sequelitis, where the volume on all the trademark moves gets turned up to twelve. It could be the fact that Hollywood beats out even the noble, honest, benevolent caring and thoughtful comicbook industry on a dumb-to-dollar ratio. It could be Millar winding things up to build that strange maelstrom of unreported controversy and general nonspecific buzz he seems to find so comfortable by dropping in a few ‘he said what?!’s. But whatever the reason – jokes about learning difficulties? Jokes about domestic abuse? I know I’m an old man, came of age at the height of political correctness and happy for it, but hose gags give me the ick a bit, and taken in conjunction with the spirit of some of the articles in this issue, bearing in mind which magazines I found this one next to (Nuts and Zoo, rather than SFX, SciFiNow and Death Ray, where the market for a modern newsstand comic will be found), feels a bit like a step into a school of culture I’m really not all that comfortable with. Remember – girls are people too!

Still, Kick Ass 2 as a read still has its predecessor’s attitude and sheer gleeful gonzo momentum. And it looks great on the big paper – this is a far better place to go to get your Romita fix than the latest Avengers bollocks or whatever. funny for a guy who is so bullpen, Romita still finds extra dimensions of style and weight to add to his more ‘personal work’. Later chapters are clearly going to be feature big splashes of overweight men dressed in lycra masks and capes bashing each other in with golf clubs and stuff, and I won’t pretend to you for an instant that I won’t be interested in seeing that. The 8-page chapter in this issue of Clint is over far too quickly.


The next Millar strip is Nemesis #1 reprinted in its entirety. I’ve ell changed my tune on this. Nemesis is brilliant. Mcniven’s carnage absolutely sings on the big glossy paper, and the rollicking yah-boo script seems much more at home blown up to A4 too. This is where Nemesis was meant to be, and could go on to be Clint’s signature strip.


On to Ross & Edwards’ Turf. I never got through the first issue of the US pamphlet, and really struggled for the first page or two of this second go. Then, about mid way through page 2 I got the bright idea of reading the story with Jonathan Ross’ vice in my head like he’s doing one of his to-camera bits on Film 90, putting the extra ‘w’s in myself, the lot. It suddenly made a lot more sense, and the next few pages passed a lot more happily. But then, even then, with the new, familiar and friendly narrative voice, and the big paper giving Edwards’ art room to find itself among the bubbles and captions, Turf just buried itself under all the words and the simple fact that this first chapter at least is actually quite a slow, ponderous tale, relying heavily on extraneous narrative detail and an awkward, digressive writing style. It was just too much to carry on with. I hereby promise the world I will have another crack at reading all of Turf issue 1 before the next Clint arrives, but I’ve not been having much luck with it so far.


Boyle, Muir and Michael Dowling’s twisted supervillain knockabout Rex Royd is so slight and slippery it’s almost impossible not to read, almost over before you’ve realised you’ve started it. The Ennis and Morrison influences are impossible not to spot if (and you are) you’re sad enough to know about them already, and they contribute to a kind of touchingly misanthropic (it’s the disappointment, the hopeful faith abandoned that makes misanthropy so cuddly, by the way) bad drug vibe that makes this the most interesting strip in the issue. If Clint is supposed to be 2000AD moved along a generation, then Rex Royd is the one which makes sense of that claim in a textual-comparison sense: a little more obscene, a little more bratty, and even more insouciant than anything typical of Tharg’s stable, certainly in its recent dadrock years. It’s nothing too memorable, nothing to especially treasure, but something to unaccountably recall and grin about when you’re drunk and weaving your way home, mere instants before you’re happyslapped by the local hoodies. (Remember hoodies and happyslapping? Aw, sweet. It’s like a Noughties nostalgia show and… Oh no. Hang on – actually, I think I may have inadvertently hit upon something: Clint is quite a lot like a Noughties Best Of… clip show. And that may not be a particularly reassuring thing.)


The final strip is a short called The Diner  by Manuel Bracchi. If Rex Royd is attitudinally (drokk vs. fuck) and stylistically (absorbing US comic influences vs. denying them altogether) a step on from 2000AD, then this is unfortunately a step back. Millar’s commitment to getting unknowns to fill the spaces between the celebrities is a great move, the most laudable thing about Clint itself. (Imagine the alternative – get in a load of 2000AD jobsworths to do some hilarious ‘over-the-top’ gag strips to warm the cockles as we slouch in our bedsocks into this cosy new decade… hardly bears thinking about.) It’s just a Future Shock, but it has no middle and no real twist: There’s Zombies!! And a man takes one out and tries to convince everyone There’s Zombies!! And they don’t believe him but the twist is: There’s Zombies!! As a finished piece it’s clearly missing a scene or two to make it hold together, something which the Millarworlders should have mentioned on the various submissions threads over there. There’s some great work on that thread, and it seems odd that this was the one chosen to open the proceedings with. Oh, the Huw Edwards thing?

Joke of the year mate. Keep at it Clint, good to see someonehaving a fucking good crack at it.

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