Review: Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Kick-Ass graphic novel cover Mark Millar

I saw the Kick-Ass movie when it first came out in 2010. I was vaguely aware that it was a graphic novel at the time, but had little to no interest in actually reading it, as for some reason I wasn’t that bothered about this medium back then. More fool me. Now though… let’s just say I’m more open-minded. So when we watched the film again last week in preparation for Kick-Ass 2, I just had to read the graphic novel that kicked off the whole thing.

Plot summary: Dave Lizewski is just another ordinary American teenager. He likes girls, videogames and comic books. But sometimes an ordinary life isn’t enough. His transformation into KICK-ASS, the world’s first real-life superhero, makes him an overnight internet sensation.

The public loves him. The underworld fears him. Then he meets pint-sized lethal weapon Hit-Girl and her intimidating partner Big Daddy, and things start to get really serious. And very, very violent.

So yes, this is a superhero series, but not like you’re thinking. This is set in our world, the real world, where kryptonite and Bat Caves exist only in fiction. Dave is just a normal boy on the street, who suddenly wonders why nobody has ever tried to emulate one of the heroes from his comicbooks. It’s actually a very clever idea and makes you actually see his point – why has nobody done this before?*

It’s very story-centered, for a graphic novel. By that I don’t mean that the art isn’t good (because it is), it’s just that the focus is clearly on the plot and characters, not aesthetics. There are some fairly striking panels, but nothing that’s going to blow your mind (except at very close range with a very large gun, but we’ll get to that). To clarify, it’s a good thing – I’ve read too many graphic novels that are very well-drawn but have no actual substance beyond that and the story in Kick-Ass can more than stand on its own two feet.

While the plot is very similar to the movie on the whole, the general tone of it is different. It’s much less cartoon-y, ironically. While I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near ‘serious,’ the whole Hit-Girl going on a ninja-rampage to a background of cheerful goofy music just doesn’t fit with what I’ve read. There’s more genuine fear, more torture and more adult conversation with fewer one-liners, time-fillers and quirky music. The ending is slightly different as well and there’s less about him actually deciding to become Kick-Ass.

And the violence, wow. It’s worse than the film and that was an 18. It’s not necessarily that what’s drawn is more graphic (although it is in some cases), but the violence/torture suggested is fairly horrific from page one. I’m not going to give examples, but just trust me on this one – it’s bad. However, it is actually necessary for the plot and it does fit. Yes, there is an awful lot of it but it’s not shoved in for shock value – I genuinely believe it wouldn’t have worked without it and I’m not normally one for gratuitous violence.

I like Hit-Girl quite a lot. She’s obviously violent and trained in every weapon you could imagine, but yet she’s actually quite innocent and that shines through occasionally. Big Daddy is less irritating than in the film too, which is a plus. I like Nicholas Cage as much as the next person, but if he said ‘child’ in that stupid voice one more time I was going to show him what ‘violent’ really meant. 

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot I can find to complain about in Kick-Ass. It’s definitely not for children or for those particularly squeamish, but if you can deal with violence when it’s necessary for the plot then I would definitely pick this up. It’s perfect for anybody picking up a graphic novel for the first time or for more seasoned readers. Either way, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

* Except they have.**
** I actually live here!

See my other graphic novel reviews here.


  1. Hannah says:

    "I like Nicholas Cage as much as the next person" i.e. …not very much? 😀

    And that was the BEST news story ever. Was watching the news and that popped up and I just laughed all day. It was so amazing!

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