Point-Counterpoint: Simon Abrams’ Concluding Kick-Ass Argument

Posted by on May 13th, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Previously: Gavin Lees is pro-Kick-Ass., Simon Abrams is con.

We agree on a couple of points. Firstly, the issue of homophobia and swearing when it comes to Hit-Girl is ultimately a non-issue. As with most controversies, this one is frankly overblown and uninteresting. Secondly, Hit-Girl is essentially the tipping point of the series. Millar’s claims to realism don’t hold much water once a mouthy little girl with a talent for fucking shit up but good shows up. But by that token, it’s impossible for me to see Lizewski’s injuries as being sincerely meant to deter readers from becoming too attached to their avatar’s fondness for delusional escapism. Millar is not O. Henry nor is he even as good as any of the EC comics crew of yesteryear. His writing intentionally courts controversy for its own sake. He likes to provoke rather than genuinely engage the reader with fully realized ideas (the latest issue of The Ultimates has Frank “The Punisher” Castle torture a gangster in a room he calls “Little Guantanamo.” Cute.). Lizewski’s injuries are meant to provoke giggles first. The rest is entirely dependent on how much meaning readers want to invest in a stick figure like Lizewski.

Had Millar been interested in realism, he would’ve collaborated with some other of Marvel’s popular pencil jockeys, like Mike Deodato Jr. or Salvador Larocca, whose styles are, comparatively speaking, infinitely more mundane than Romita’s. His drawing style is positively Darrow-esque in its attempt to hyperbolize violence by, pardon the pun, drawing out every action pose down to its last gory detail. It’s supposed to look cool, not lifelike.

By that same token, I don’t think Kick-Ass should logically be judged as a young-adult text. It, like Wanted, is meant for arrested adolescents, not ones that are still forming their own sense of taste (though it should be noted that I picked up on SandmanStormwatch, Preacher and Transmetropolitan at Lizewski’s age). The pretense of having a younger character, a cynical, more “modern” Peter Parker is a joke for a more jaded reader, somebody that’s seen Spider-Man go through so many permutations and changes that they can’t help but scoff at the thought of a new superhero that doesn’t feel like sloppy twentieths by now. It’s loud and crude and thoughtless. OK. So why isn’t it funny?

It’s interesting that you should mention the Crank movies because they’re, to my mind, the cinematic equivalent of everything that Millar’s recent creator-owned series have tried and failed to be. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s wonky actioners have energy and humor to spare; and both Crank movies, which are set in a delightfully churlish caricature of L.A., really moves. Each scene tries to outdo the last in terms of humor and campy excess. But unlike Kick-Ass, the Crank movies are consistent and very upfront about what their sole aim is–to be loud, silly and ingeniously rude–and not nearly as pretentious or ineptly sarcastic.

This is probably because Neveldine and Taylor don’t try to finger their target audience for enjoying what they’re selling and then give them heaps-a-plenty of that self-same taboo genre-stuff. Superheroes are not and should not be synonymous with power fantasies. While it should be obvious by now, the fact is that the best super-yarns are so much better than that. Being as ineffectually sardonic and imaginatively stunted as it is, Kick-Ass just seems like a potty-mouthed, premature celebration of a supposedly dying genre that is more robust than all the crappy crossovers, ludicrous plot twists and lifeless blockbuster events combined. Bif bam pow! Comics aren’t just for closeted deviants that live in their parents’ basements anymore.

all images ©2010 Mark Millar & John S. Romita

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