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Kick-Ass: A Retrospective

Even though the finale of the Kick-Ass saga has been delayed yet again, now set for a June 11th shelf date, this is still going to be the retrospective that I had planned to do in anticipation of the series finally ending. The good, the bad, and the ugly, as it were. So this is a friendly reminder that there will be full SPOILERS ahead, so read past this at your own caution. Also – all ratings are comparative.

Kick-Ass (2008)

 

 

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The first Kick-Ass series is one that really excels under one reading: that everyone in it is a complete basket case. Dave Lizewski himself, in several pages throughout the mini, states that only someone who is crazy would go out in tight-fitting clothes to fight crime. A common misconception about the series as a whole is that it is about a normal kid who tries to become a superhero, which is wrong. It might have been that way for the movie (which toned down the more grislier aspects of the comic) but in the comic, Dave is a pretty messed up kid who retreats into delusion. The first series isn’t uplifting, or inspiring, or even something that would make a good move, and the actual movie was just based on the pitch. Since I’d be remiss not to mention the movie, I’ll only say this: there was more to Kick-Ass than just the basic pitch and that shaping into a normal superhero movie but with more curses made it a bit bland.

 

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The first series is a tale of complete ineptitude. A tale of failure. As Kick-Ass so acutely put it in the first pages of the very first issue, “this is what happens when you mess with bad people”. Does it pull it off in any way sensibly? Not really, everyone just comes off as an oafish jerk and/or sociopath. There are a few nice dramatic beats here and there, but not enough for a compelling story. It languishes in the realm of Dave’s monotone angsty narration until the plot kicks in. If anything the only real highlight of the first series is the humor. It is crass, and it is juvenile, but it is consistent. In my opinion, the humor of the first is what made Kick-Ass into Kick-Ass. The movie was more sanitized except for just bad words. I, for one, will never forget the word “tunk”. It’s ridiculous, but it’s gets a smirk here and there.

 

Kick Ass 2 (2010-2012)

 

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Given the sort of explosion, real or fabricated, that surrounded the first comic, a sequel was inevitable. A sequel that is pretty much the nadir of the entire series. To this day it stands as the worst Kick-Ass related thing to be put out. It discards pretty much the good of the series and replaces it with more of the bad. Even though the first had a lot of “serious and gritty” moments it had a sense of zest. Again, mainly carried by the humor. It at least gave the illusion of wanting to be fun. Kick-Ass 2 has little to none of that. Now infamous for its horribly handled rape scene and other such awful additions, it was just depressing scene piled onto depressing scene. This is where I say that the movie takes the cake because, unlike the first film, it captured that very Kick-Ass style of zest. It was a stupid romp filled with bad, yet somehow silly and not so annoying, jokes.

 

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Really, outside of the enhanced need for “grim and dark” story beats the other major problem was that the focus was taken off of Dave and placed onto Hit-Girl. Dave is static and there is no real forward progression with his character. Even the most tragic and shocking things that happen to Dave are given little or no real impact since it’s not about him. It’s a Hit-Girl story and much lip service is paid toward hyping up her return. The story comes off as flat and disjointed. It’s hard to say anything works, and after all is said the highlight has to have been the team of Justice Forever. They appeared for mainly one issue intact, but they finally represented the actual normal people who were just trying to do good, and the series should have focused on them more.

 

Hit-Girl (2012-2013)

 

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Ostensibly set before Kick-Ass 2, it is indeed a prequel, I place it here just so I can say one thing. This was a return to form for the series in a noticeable way. Not simply because it was set prior to all of the unnecessarily dumb and dark set-pieces of Kick-Ass 2, but because it returned to the style of the series and refined it a bit more. It’s a short story that serves to round out how messed up Hit-Girl is, and does so in a way that doesn’t come off as relentlessly “edgy” as its immediate predecessor. It’s filled with multiple lighter moments and at points really comes off as this sort of almost parody – especially in the way Red Mist is handled.

 

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While Kick-Ass 2 tried to make him seem like a major threat and a force to be reckoned with, Hit-Girl brings him down to outright slapstick buffoon levels. It works too, as stated for the first series, this is a story of inept heroes and inept villains, and Red Mist actually begins to feel like a part of the series tonally. I am not afraid to say that he is perhaps the highlight of this part, it is just a delight to see how much he fails and at which corners. Overall, Hit-Girl is probably the best of the Kick-Ass series, and mainly due to how it doesn’t try much. It has two focuses, showcasing Red Mist and Hit-Girl, and only 5 issues and used that time to develop them to the fullest. All in all, this was the sequel that Kick-Ass 2 should have been.

 

Kick-Ass 3 (2013-2014)

 

 

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Even though this last leg of the franchise has not yet finished, and won’t for another month, I thought it best to say a few words about it. It’s not the best of endings so far, many things are rushed and coincidences pile up. Especially near the end with some hurried plot developments. Although, as things slowly closer to being said and done, it’s not half bad for a Kick-Ass series. It shows nice development for the three major players in the series and actually does the deterioration of Dave’s fantasy life and what that entails somewhat well. The villains are ridiculous and outrageously one-note, but that’s what one comes to expect from Kick-Ass anyway, and they’re not the worst the series has had to offer, perpetuating my favorite moment of the franchise below:

 

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Overall they have to be the highlight in this one. Some of the moments of villain interaction have led to a good comedy set-piece or two and as this wraps up that aspect has been the thing that stands out the most. Will I say that it perfectly encapsulates the series at its best? No, but it does a solid, for its category, story anyway and I await the conclusion. Thoughts? Comments? Tell what you think of the series below.

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