When Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s Kick-Ass was released in 2008 it became a smash, surprise (to some) success, taking off in such a way that multiple reprints of the first few issues flew off shelves even after the first issue had come and gone. For good reason, I might add. The story had a fresh, everyman feel to it, focusing squarely on the trials and failures of young Dave Lizewski, a high school comic book geek with a hopeless crush on a girl and a dad trying to help him and his son through an unbearable grief.
Ever since that first issue, Millar and company have periodically put out the sequential issues, leading up to this week's issue eight, the final chapter in this first story arc. While captured by John Genovese, Kick-Ass and his cohorts Big Daddy and Hit-Girl have faced overwhelming odds in trying to turn the tide and win the battle, resulting in some great action and suspense. Until this final issue of the first major story line.
While part of the fascination in the series has been in seeing Dave evolve into a hero, all through the stumbling, beatings and other tortures he's taken (let's not mention the car battery!), it's in issue eight that Dave's role as Kick-Ass appears to be firmly shored up. All that seems to be secondary however, as Hit-Girl and her revenge for her father's death at the hands of Genovese's men becomes the main story. While the action of the story is just as crisp as ever, as Hit-Girl and Dave fight their way out of their situation, it feels strangely predictable, given the buildup and direction of the past few issues.
We know where everything is going, and even Kick-Ass's confrontation with Red Mist is present, it feels strangely abbreviated, leaving us wanting a bit more given their relationship over the past three issues. If the issue is meant to feel like a bridge between this issue and the start of the next story arc in issue nine, then that job is certainly accomplished, as much of the final showdown feels rushed in action and pace. Millar's writing is still narratively convincing and realistic, but the rush through to the end is a bit jarring.
There are some nice details about what happened after the battle, such as what happens to Hit-Girl and Dave's current social situation in school, but most of this issue feels like a formality. Issues of comics that wrap up one story line can be wonderful bridges that build up anticipation for the next story, not obligatory walks that tie up the loose ends in a swift motion. Even the "sinister" epilogue at the end, featuring a familiar character, doesn't feel needed, as would probably have made that conclusion on our own anyway.
Issue nine of Kick-Ass will certainly be a great jumping on point for new readers of the series. For those who were there from the beginning, perhaps the curiosity and freshness that came with the first few issues will return anew!