I read the first three issues of KICK-ASS and enjoyed the awkward geekiness of Dave, the wannabe superhero. I thought Mark Millar had done a good job of introducing a set of interesting, mostly realistic characters and showed with compelling simplicity what the consequences of gaudy vigilantism would inevitably be: Dave getting the snot beaten out of him. But I dropped the series, in disgust, when Hit Girl showed up and started slicing apart hulking men with ease. To me, the idea of a nine-year-old girl cutting apart goons defied all logic and upended the realism that Millar had established in the early issues.
Thankfully, the opening issue of KICK ASS Vol. 2 is similar in tone and style to the opening issues of the first series: a limited amount of mostly realistic violence and a greater focus on characters. Dave, now a recognized hero in tights, patrols the New York streets with a guy who calls himself Dr. Gravity. They talk about being superheroes in a humorous but mostly believable way: Gravity is concerned that he's treading on Dave's turf, and Dave’s just grateful to have a partner in the street. This exchange is not only fun and well-written, but it also reveals the basic rationale behind superhero team-ups: it's very scary patrolling the streets and so any hero, but especially one without any real superpowers, should seek out strength in numbers. Millar interrupts this conversation with a nasty street brawl and, quite amusingly, shows the perils of superhero team-ups: one guy, in this case Gravity, fails to pull his weight and leaves all the fighting for his partner, Dave.
John Romita Jr. and Tom Palmer do an excellent job on art. Romita is as good at laying out domestic scenes -- a conversation in a living room or a birthday party in the park -- as he is at portraying a wild, fist-pounding, crotch-smashing street battle. And Tom Palmer, who has been one of Marvel's top inkers since the late 1960s, does an outstanding job at cleaning up Romita's pencils and producing crisp, clean illustrations. Looking at the back pages of this issue, which show Romita's pencils and Palmer's inks separately, it's clear that Palmer is a major artistic force behind this book. He transforms incredibly rough pages and turns them into some of the best art that we’ve seen by Romita in at least five or six years. Based on this issue alone, Palmer should be Romita's number one collaborator at Marvel, not Klaus Janson.
KICK-ASS Vol. 2 #1 is a solid opening issue. I imagine fans of the original series will find it particularly satisfying. And even I, a vocal Millar-skeptic, might continue to read this book to see where the story goes. My only fear is that Millar will do what Millar always does: ruin a very good opening few issues by concluding the story with pointless, over-the-top, guts-splattering-in-all-directions violence. Let's hope not.