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Film Art: An Introduction
David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson
Kick-Ass - Mark Millar, John Romita Jr., Rob Liefeld "Why do people want to be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider-Man?"

This is a question that a young, comic-loving Dave not only asks but acts on, eventually taking up the guise of the crime-fighting Kick-Ass. But he's no Spider-Man. No, no, no, far from it. In fact he's more Paris Hilton than he is Peter Parker. Sure, he shares similarities with Spidey, mostly youth and immaturity, but he's lacking what fundamentally makes Spider-Man the hero that he is: responsibility. It comes free of charge with power, ya know. But, alas, little Dave lacks powers as well. Granted, at first Spider-Man used his power for personal gain and eventually vengeance, but eventually ole' Spidey found his inner altruism. Dave hasn't, and perhaps never will. Perhaps there was a better question Dave could have asked; perhaps he should have wondered what being Spider-Man, or any sort of hero, really entails.

Kick-Ass makes a point to show that it takes place in the real world. Not the world of comic books, but the world of people influenced by comic books. We quickly learn that, unlike in Spidey's world, when you walk up to a criminal he will stab you and when you get stabbed blood indeed will come out. The real world is filled with more blood and violence and less justice and heroism. Which is precisely why there are more Paris Hiltons than there are Spider-Mans. Dave, too, wants to be Paris Hilton, he just goes about it by grabbing a mask and pretending he's doing something different. He's delusional. If Paris Hilton represents popularity, adoration, iconism, and self-indulgence, then Dave fits the bill perfectly. His motivation is the amount of friends he can get on Myspace, building his reputation and ego, and winning girls. He even gets jealous when a new "superhero" becomes more popular than him on TV. He wants to be a celebrity, not a hero, he just happens to think that a mask makes him look cooler than a chihuahua in a handbag does.

Dave has not a shred of good intentions in him. He barely even hints at doing what he does to help people or better society or anything like that. He's a loser in a world that values popularity over righteousness and instead of trying to change such a world he merely tries to fit in. No one in this graphic novel is a likable character, and Dave is no exception. He's relatable, sure--if I was sent a picture of the girl I loved sucking someone else's dick I might cry about it, but I'll probably jerk off to it as well. Dave represents the dark, ugly parts of ourselves, and no one likes the dark and ugly parts of themselves, else they wouldn't be so ill-lighted and unappealing.

Here's where the comic runs into some issues (no pun intended). Mark Millar's writing just isn't strong enough to flesh out such ideas. There's some shining moments of hope that bring promise to the story and reveal its potential, but on the whole it mostly fails. [b:Watchmen|472331|Watchmen|Alan Moore|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327866860s/472331.jpg|4358649] already showed us in the 80s that when the concept of superheroes is applied to reality you don't get the black-and-white heroes-and-villains, but instead you get a big gray area with confused, delusional people in costumes. Kick-Ass has those same delusional characters (I don't think shoving a katana through someone for prank-calling their ex-girlfriend is a defensible vision of justice) but in Kick-Ass the comic itself seems to hold the same delusions as its main character. The concept had the potential to be powerful, but Millar fails to connect, especially in the ending. Kick-Ass is still alive and his superhero career will go on and in the sequel he will have a blatant costumed villain to fight. Kick-Ass didn't learn anything, he didn't have his Uncle Ben moment. He's still in it for the fame and adoration--he's still not a hero. But yet he's still pretending to be and the writing still treats him as if he is. Well, what a shitty fucking ending. The concepts, ideas, and characters never go anywhere, the potential is never met, and the whole book is mindless rather than impactful. It's a book that decides to ignore the opportunity for thought-provoking themes or deep character psychology and instead gives us page after page of kids bloodying people with their weapons, never having to suffer important consequences or face any sort of revelation or ever even question their actions. The main character faces struggles and hardships but rather than serving to develop and transform the character the hardships only act as interruptions to the vigilante violence. When his bones heal he does the same thing he did before they were broken--so why did his bones need to break in the story? for realism? Phooey! That'd be confusing blood and curse words for maturity. Realism is not shown through a character getting stabbed, realism is shown through a character reacting to getting stabbed.

It's not a bad graphic novel, it really isn't, I'd even call it better than most. I'm glad I read it and I enjoyed the time I spent doing so. It's just nothing too special in my eyes and is disappointing in that it missed so much potential and even what it did well ended up seeming convoluted in purpose. There's no depth to this story. It's mindless fun, which would be fine if it didn't pretend to be realistic or gritty. It shoves potential aside for the sake of cliches. This isn't a reworking of the superhero tale. It's an amoral Spider-Man with gore, a dumbed-down Watchmen, a young adult story pretending to be grown-up. Mildly enjoyable, but utterly disappointing.

[I intend to add some comments on the book's sequel along with its film adaptation as soon as I get around to reading/watching them. Also I haven't proof-read this yet due to tiredness/laziness, so please bare with any errors and/or idiotic remarks until I revise it]