Hit-Girl (2013)

“Okay, if you’re going to be a little pussy about it I guess we can start on the baby floor. Jesus, Dave! It’s like training the Tiny Titans sometimes.”

Kick-Ass is back with a vengeance in this prelude story, to both the movie and the comic Kick-Ass 2, featuring Hit-Girl. The book collects the the five issue series and was created by the usual creative team of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

After the death of her father in the first Kick-Ass series, pint-sized vigilante Mindy McCready finds herself back living with her nervous mother and police detective step-father. This proves to be to be a fly in the ointment for Mindy who , as Hit-Girl, wants to destroy the Genovese family and their associates as revenge for her father. She also takes Kick-Ass under her wing supervising his superhero training but her most difficult task is fitting in as a 12 year old girl at school.

I loved this book. It full of humour taking a long hard look at the actions of comic book superheroes when fighting crime, who Mindy places a lot of emphasis on when training Kick-Ass, but also in a great series of sequences featuring Red Mist as he takes the Batman route and learns Eastern techniques from Himalayan monks and mystics. The ultraviolence is present too as Hit-Girl destroys the Genovese crime empire piece by piece and closer to home as her actions bring the mob to her door threatening her new found family. If you are already a fan of the Kick-Ass series then you will probably be picking this up anyway without any recommendation from me but if you haven’t read them and are a fan of Garth Ennis then you should give the books a try – start with Kick-Ass followed by this one and then Kick-Ass 2.

I have to mention that the series cover gallery also features this fabulous variant cover to issue 5 by Bill Sienkiewicz after Sienkiewicz:

Brilliant!

Kick-Ass 2 (2012)

 

Quote:
“Again with the f-bombs! What is it with young people these days?”

 

This book collects the second seven part mini-series from the same creative team of Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. The thing to say straight up is that the back of this book has an infographic that states that this is book 3 of a projected 5 book Kick-Ass arc. Well thanks for the heads up on that Mark and Millarworld – the only other place it is mentioned is on the facing page to the last page in the story.

The actual book 2 of the arc is the current, and so currently uncollected, Hit-Girl mini-series. This will now have to be treated by me as a flashback. Any dramatic tension created in that story could now well be compromised since there is a likelihood that it will be spoiled by knowing the events in Kick-Ass 2. Hopefully this will not be the case but you, dear reader, may wish to hold off reading this book until after the collection of Hit-Girl.

As for the book itself, it carries on in the same vein as book one with more extreme, bloody violence and foul language. In the aftermath of the events in book one, Dave and Mindy’s lives have gone separate ways. While Dave is living the dream as Kick-Ass, Mindy has retired Hit-Girl under the watchful eye of her cop step-father. Millar cranks up the tension with the introduction of super-teams and super-villains – not everyone wants to do good. While the cops seemed content to stand back in the first book when only gangs were getting whacked, the situation changes in this book when a team of super-villains cause a massacre in a quiet suburban district.

If you liked the first book then you will probably like this as it is more of the same. The depth of Dave’s obsession with being Kick-Ass is tested to the full by the events in this book. Perhaps his actions are being dictated by the things that happen around him but how he must wish that he had hung up his costume after his first patrol. I look forward to seeing what Millar has planned for Dave and Mindy now.

Kick-Ass (2010)

 

Quote:
“Would you give me a hug? My daddy just died.”

 

This book collects the first eight part mini-series and was written by Mark Millar, the Scottish writer probably best known for the Ultimates or the Civil War event for Marvel. The art was by John Romita, Jr. who has mostly worked on various Marvel characters.

Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski, a high school kid who dreams of becoming a superhero like the ones he reads about in his comic books. Dave decides to act on his desires and roams the streets looking for action but soon regrets it when he ends up stabbed, beaten and the victim of a hit and run. Several months and operations later and Dave can’t keep away from the streets but small successes only bring him to the attention of larger predators.

This book features some of the trademark excesses of language and violence that Millar is known for in his creator owned work and so won’t be for everyone. It is a brutal examination of the reality of vigilantism where the criminal underclass are not a superstitious and cowardly lot to be frightened by a man in a suit and the crime lords will move quickly to end anything that is interrupting their business activities. Dave finds that the high ideals held by the comic book heroes are soon abandoned in real life when he becomes associated with another pair of well trained vigilantes targeting crime boss John Genovese. The tipping point for most people I suppose will be the character Hit-Girl – a well trained 10 year old girl who wields deadly katanas to dish out bloody violence while spouting foul language. Even given the comic book nature of the story it is hard to imagine any father turning a young girl into the violent figure of revenge that is presented in this book. But if you can accept that then this is an excellent book.

The Flash: The Human Race (2009)

[ Listening to The Smiths Currently: Listening to The Smiths ]

Quote:
And none of these adults were sincere enough to take off their play suits to say goodbye.

 

I have not read many stories involving the Flash apart from when he appears as part of the Justice League. I picked this one up because it was written by the normally excellent Scottish writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar.

The book consists of 3 stories. In the first, The Human Race (Flash 136 – 138) written by Morrison and Millar, the Flash finds himself in a race against his (so he thought) imaginary childhood friend for the survival of Earth. In the second, The Black Flash (Flash 139 – 141) written by Millar, Wally West has decided to propose to Linda Park but before he can she is killed in his place. The Flash must overcome guilt, grief, the loss of his powers and death twice if he is to have a happy ending. The final story is from Secret Origins #50. It is called Flash of Two Worlds and was written by Morrison to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Flash. It is a short (16 page) story and consists of boy’s recollection of the day he met the Flash.

I went into this one hoping for great things from Morrison and Millar but came away disappointed – the stories certainly are not going to rank amongst my favourites by this pair. Of the two main stories the Black Flash one is probably the best as Wally examines his attitudes to the superhero community when mourning the death of Linda. But my favourite is the short, charming Secret Origins story by Morrison where he plays it straight and keeps the weirdness to a minimum. The art in this volume is by a variety of pencillers and inkers (8 in all) and is pretty standard comic book fare without ever being brilliant.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan (2010)

 

Quote:
“My name is Logan.””Sure it is.”

 

This book collects Wolverine #66 – 72 and Old Man Logan Giant-Size. It is by the same creative team behind the main Civil War book from Marvel and the recent mini-series Nemesis – Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.

The story is set in a dystopian future fifty years after the bad guys decided to get co-ordinated and wipe out most of the superheroes. The United States has been split into zones each controlled by one of the leaders of the conflict. Wolverine is a broken man after his experiences and unwitting role in the victory for the bad guys. He has forsaken violence and sworn not to use his claws again. He has a wife and two children and is struggling to make ends meet on his farmstead and is behind on the rent to Banner’s offspring. A blind Hawkeye appears and offers him a job escorting him and a package to the east coast. As they set out across the blasted landscape of America, Logan finds out the fate of some of the fallen heroes and their descendents, tells the tale of his role in the heroes downfall and finds his promise to his family not to pop his claws and resort to violence tested to the limit and beyond.

I thought this was a really, really good book. The setting of a post apocalyptic future was a good one – if a bit Mad Max inspired – as is the premise that Wolverine has become a man of peace supporting his family and eking out a life as a farmer. The art is great in this book as it has to be with many silent panels and one and two page splashes. I loved the gradual reveal of the fate of some of the heroes and the discarded Mjolnir becoming a place of pilgrimage. While not quite as graphic as Nemesis there is still a surprising amount of red ink splahed about in what is a mainstream Marvel title. And the build-up to Logan finally popping his claws – you knew he had to at some point – was a delicious tease as he used all manner of other means to defend himself when under extreme attack.

Nemesis (2011)

[ Listening to Hunky Dory Currently: Listening to Hunky Dory ]

Nemesis brings together the creative partnership of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven who worked on Civil War – about the only “big event” crossover that I have shown any interest in recently – and Old Man Logan (which is in my to be read pile) both for Marvel. Millar has had two recent books adapted for the screen with Wanted and Kick-Ass and it looks like the same is going to happen to this book.

On the surface, Nemesis is a reverse Batman – a man with wealth and resources but who decides to become a villain rather than a hero. The story starts with Nemesis’ latest killing spree in Japan where he has perpetrated a number of atrocities to humiliate a renowned chief of police culminating in his violent death and the death of numerous citizens. After this Nemesis decides to go after a respected police officer in Washington and along the way storms Air Force One and kidnaps the President, escapes from prison and humiliates the policeman and his family.

This book features a large amount of stylised ultraviolence – why is it that British writers, such as Millar, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, seem to be fascinated with this genre? The story is very good but the book itself is short collecting four issues and with many pages depicting the graphic violence without any words it is a very quick read. The story was entertaining in its own right but only really started to become really interesting in the last few pages when the twist to the story is revealed. The twist while providing a springboard for further stories does lead to a slight bursting of the suspension of disbelief in the abilities of Nemesis himself. It would be interesting to see where Millar would take it on if he continues the series.

Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 5: Crossover (2006)

Another book from the library and another Fantastic Four collection – this volume collects Ultimate Fantastic Four #21-26. This time it is set in the Marvel Ultimate universe – which seems to be a parallel universe to the normal Marvel universe (haven’t these guys learnt anything from DC’s various multiverse crises?). The Ultimate universe gives creators the chance to play with characters so that they are familiar to readers of the regular but subtly different enough that they can be reinvented.

The first three chapters deal with Reed Richards contacting yet another parallel Earth and connecting with that Earth’s older version of himself. However he crosses dimensions to find himself in a superhero zombie apocalypse version of Earth. He hooks up with the last unchanged superhero – Magneto – who is, ironically, protecting a last pocket of humanity from the zombies. The remaining three chapters tell of the return of Sue and Johnny’s mother from the dead; the discovery and exploration of Atlantis and the release of Namor – with chaos ensuing.

I enjoyed this collection. The Fantastic Four in the Ultimate universe have gone right back to their roots and are portrayed as a young team of heroes again. Mark Millar’s script was action and emotion packed with subtle touches of humour along the way. It did suffer slightly because I was joining the story in the middle of a run and so had to fill in some of the details of the history of character exchanges for myself. However, there was enough in it to make me want to read more of the series.