Kick-Ass #2
The last comics I bought by Mark Millar were the quietly-released final issues of The Unfunnies. It ends **SPOILER** with an evil comic book creator literally writing himself into his own strip, free to rape and murder his characters as he sees fit, a life of fictive freedom being preferable to a life of reality on death row. It was an amusingly nasty take on Grant Morrison’s fond old hyperfictionsuit riff, but not one that added much to the idea. Or at least it didn’t until Kick-Ass 2, where it is revealed that at some point in the recent past Mark Millar evidently wrote himself into the Marvel universe, for real. As in, that’s where he actually lives now. How else to explain the contents of this issue, where realism apparently reigns supreme, but comes in the form of circumstances and psychologies that could only ever seem plausible to someone who really lives in funnybook land?

The plot goes: our teeny protagonist recovers from his injuries last issue, then gets right back out there and starts hitting baddies with his sticks again, only this time he wins! He wins because apparently lying on the floor still gives you leverage enough to land a heavy blow on a felon’s face! Because being battered by three adult men twice your size doesn’t really stop you in your tracks – not if you’re a weird mental in a wetsuit! And then, the whole scrap gets internetted on this U-Choob thing that everyone’s talking about!

Relevant! REALISTIC!

It’s just silly rubbish really. That itself wouldn’t be quite so irritating if not for Millar’s hype – there’s a thing with promotion about the dangers of disconnect between expectation and delivery – if you tell everyone this is the ultimate in realist comics, then turn in another bag of macho-ironic bollocks, with ludicrous motivations and reactions and impossible twisteroos, people are going to be much more down on it than if your pre-marketing said ‘average fighty nonsense with some nicely chunky but mismatched art’. That’s the last of these I’ll buy – so I will have to give Kick-Ass #2 a long KICK off a short pier.

Secret Invasion #1
So second book out the bag and we’re already pretty down on Mark Millar. After that over-familiar bundle of tics and quirks, a few stock Bendis-isms comes as blessed relief. Though equally foregrounded, The Bendice’s writerly signatures aren’t as irritating as Millar’s, and generally he’s less of the enthusiastic amateur than Greg Pak, so with just this one book out Secret Invasion is already the best of Marvel’s recent crossover efforts. It’s got paranoia, unsubtly-foreshadowed doppelgangers, a space armada, lots and lots of brightly coloured spandex, and a creepy morgue shot of Skrullektra with a disturbingly vaginal surgical incision in her chest. (Or was it just me who thought that bit looked all wrong? Look again, I bet it’s not just me.)

El Bendo has been putting quite a few feet wrong lately, with the subtextual sexism in his books, so I’ll keep a close eye on how icky this book might get in later issues, but so far I’m willing to give it a polite welcoming KISS on just one cheek.

Casanova #13
This issue makes two-in-a-row. The most annoyingly-smug but erratically-brilliant book on the market has just done two excellent issues on the bounce, so maybe we’ve passed some kind of water mark and this title will now start being as good as everyone says it is. I was sure this issue would give us a disembodied-head Nick Fury (I can never remember the characters’ proper names in this book – I think it’s a little too much to ask really, when the links and associations with their obvious forerunners are so flagrantly, and fragrantly, waved in your face the whole time), barking orders from a fishtank, in a kind of Doom Patrol/Cold Lazarus/Futurama thing, but Fraction was obviously happy just going for the straightforward LMD get-out. So he’s nicking from forty year-old antecedents rather than fifteen year-old ones – who cares, he does it with some style. The ‘one-unique-soul’ debates in this issue are a little conservative for my tastes, but the flashbacks are so well handled that I’ll forgive it just about anything. A big wet KISS on the lips, no tongues though.

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14 Responses to “KICK or KISS? – comics bought from week of 3rd April 08”

  1. Qthgrq Says:

    Oooh, looks like we both had the same idea today.

    Interesting that our takes on Kick-Ass and Secret Invasion are broadly similar. Suppose it’s pretty hard not to come to the same conclusions about Kick-Ass. Really awful shit.

    Not reading Casanova as the first few issues, whilst pretty, kinda bored me stiff. A free for all of ideas with nothing of substance to hold them together. Probably prejudged it unfairly.

  2. The Beast Must Die! Says:

    Casanova reads well in trade. Still got my issues with Fraction, but Casanova’s firmly on my buy list.
    Agree agree agree about Kick Ass 2 – I gave Millar a smidgin of rope after the first issue and he predictably hung himself. By the scrotum. It’s just so….nothing really. Soulless, heartless, and cynically pleased with iself. Plus last issues unashamed Marvel in-house plugging was so cringeworthy. Poo.

  3. Qthgrq Says:

    Yeah, I think I’ll go back to Casanova now that it’s been collected.

    Currently gorging myself on Buffy Season 8 book 1. Pure nostalgia in comic form.

  4. dfalcon Says:

    Reading Casanova in trade also has the bonus of… it’s not entirely smug, self-hugging stuff, but the authorial voice in the b*ckm*tt*r is – cloying, I’d say. Overbearing.

  5. bobsy Says:

    Yeah, true – it’s not that the backfat is always terribly written or unbelievably stupid, although it sometimes is, it’s just an unwelcome self-indulgence. The space could be so much better spent on fleshing-out the somewhat sparse and disconnected Casanovaverse, with text stories, fact files, cross section diagrams of gadgets, y’know fun, fannish stuff like that.

    Dare I say it, a letters page would be welcome, even in this day-and-age? Ellis manages to make one work in Fell, Kirkman in the Walking Dead. It’s a dying art, but it’s not lost yet.

  6. dfalcon Says:

    I hate Ellis letters page, mind you, along with his continuous and, I should imagine, delusional insistence that 95% of correspondants are i) impoverished and ii) female. Perhaps I am a truly terrible person for believing that the majority of his readers are neither, but probably white? Perhaps. The insights he gives into the process are good, mind you, much better and there’s generally just much less ‘me’-ness about it, just as well considering what an arse he is.

    Imagine spending time with Warren Ellis.


    It wouldn’t be good. Comics are pretty aces these days, mind you, anyone reading that Ultimate Human, ‘s really quite excellent?

  7. Qthgrq Says:

    Thought last issue started well, but it dipped into self-parody just before the end and I started to lose interest

  8. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Apr. 9, 2008: Dullsville hoedown Says:

    [...] Mindless Ones already has several items of interest, including general reviews of recent comics (part one, part two) and an interesting critical analysis of John Smith and Sean Phillips’ Hellblazer [...]

  9. bobsy Says:

    Ha – Yes I’ve just remembered but Ellis does have some weird idea that everyone who reads Fell is either some kind of achingly authentic homeless person or a liberated emoporn actor(/ess).

    He never prints letters from people who say ‘hang on, you just nicked the whole premise of this issue from an article in the Fortean Times three months back’. Still a great little book though.

  10. Tucker Stone Says:

    Annoyingly smug pretty much nails Casanova to the wall and drains it out life-juice. That comic struggles against being pleasant, but the struggle is totally with the desire to tell Matt Fraction to shut the fuck up.

  11. Joe S. Walker Says:

    Re Ellis, does anyone really believe that “after Ultimate FF I was swamped with emails from people who’d never heard of me” rubbish?

  12. Tucker Stone Says:

    I’m sure Warren Ellis believes that. Other than him? I hope not.

  13. David Allison Says:

    Good post.

    You’re right about Kick Ass, it’s just… there’ nothing there. The only way it could get worse is if Millar tries to do another one of his ‘shock’ endings:

    “Hah — you sad old fucker! You actually believed I did any of that shit! Grow up! While you’ve been wanking over this stupid power fantasy, I’ve been fucking you mother… IN THE ASS!”

    Ugh. Let’s hope the story doesn’t go there. Or rather, let’s hope that we all remember not to find out…

    Still, I can’t help feel disappointed that someone got John Romita Jr to draw a comic called Kick Ass, and that it wasn’t an awesome superhero fight book.

  14. Qthgrq Says:

    “Hah — you sad old fucker! You actually believed I did any of that shit! Grow up! While you’ve been wanking over this stupid power fantasy, I’ve been fucking you mother… IN THE ASS!”

    Lol. You see, the hateful part of me wants to see that particular car crash.

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