I feel like, before we start reviewing the latest Kick Ass book from Mark Millar (Hit Girl slots in between Kick Ass 1 & 2), we should probably say goodbye to a percentage of Bookmunch’s usual audience. Obviously, there are a good few readers who only read books (those things with words in, irrespective of whether they appear on a screen or on a piece of paper). So we’ll politely bid them all adieu and then maybe roll our eyes when it’s just us. Except it’s not quite just us yet is it? There are a few people, the kinds of people who maybe read about graphic novels in the Guardian, and borrow them from other more committed people to see what all of the fuss is about – or the kinds of people who have in recent years decided that, you know, graphic novels are at least as legitimate a form as blah blah and blah. A lot of those people won’t really dig Mark Millar (in the same way that they won’t really dig Spiderman or Batman or – you know, the comics they either read as kids or the comics they outgrew or – you know what I’m talking about). Mark Millar makes comics for people who are either still in their first full-on rush of being into comics (all of the 14 year old boys in the corner trying to decide which of the characters from the Big Bang Theory you are – we’re looking at you) or have passed all of that a good long time ago but, hey, don’t mind being reminded of what fun it used to be to pick up a comic (or, hell, any book) that promised you nothing more than a good time. The pleasures to be derived from a Mark Millar book are simple, somewhat derivative, crude and superficial, vaguely hipsterish (or wannabe hipsterish) and comic. Millar fashions comic comics. He’s like Frank Miller without subtext.
Okay. So. Hit Girl. As anyone with a passing knowledge of Kick Ass (book or more likely film) will tell you, we left Hit Girl fatherless, packed off to live with her nervous mother and her eagle-eyed cop stepfather. The mob are looking for revenge. Hit Girl is looking to continue her father’s vigilante work and fit in at school. Kick Ass himself is sort of loitering in the background. So alongside the kind of beat em up fare we got in the last Kick Ass (and in Nemesis for that matter) in which good guys whale on bad guys and bad guys whale on good guys (usually with the added jolt that people actually die in Millar’s comics), we also see Hit Girl at school, having the piss ripped out of her by girls who don’t know any better (but who come, via being held off the school roof by the ankle, to learn better) and struggling to fit in. Behind the scenes, Red Mist – the rich kid who was Kick Ass’ nemesis – is off training Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins style to be a bigger badder better villain (but not in Hit Girl – Hit Girl is the Empire Strikes Back of the Kick Ass trilogy – but even this needs qualifying because saying Hit Girl is the Empire Strikes Back of the Kick Ass trilogy might make you think I’m saying Hit Girl is the best of the trilogy when in fact I’m saying Hit Girl is the sort of open-ended one in the trilogy). All of the strengths and weaknesses of Millar’s books – his strengths are dialogue, action, tongue in cheek allusions to other comics (Kick Ass says stuff like ‘you don’t see Green Lantern having to do this shit’ when he’s asked to put the bins out), his weaknesses are the speed with which he sometimes resolves situations (the girl who is a bitch to Hit Girl only needs telling once, the baddies all get wiped out in a couple of pages) and his reliance on soap opera tactics (Red Mist conveniently forgets Kick Ass’ real name until he conveniently remembers) – are present and correct.
The upshot of which is: if you are a fan of action comics, particularly action/hero comics that self-referentially refer to other action/hero comics, this will be for you. If you liked this kind of thing once upon a time, and you feel like sticking your toe back in the water, you could do a lot worse than read Hit Girl (although I’d recommend Kick Ass first, just for sense’s sake). And if all of the above sounds like the total opposite of your cup of tea, it probably is.
Any Cop?: For the unrepentant 14 year old in all comic’s fans.