I havent really read american comics for years, despite once being an avid fan (monthly standing order, the whole lot) of them. The reasons for it arent super important, just a change in taste and getting worn down by and tired of the nature of the american comic industry. But I felt a recent yearning and decided it was time for another go. But I wasnt ready to leap into one of the “Big Two’s” universes, overladen with continuity and market forces.
So I started with some small self contained stuff that I’d heard good things about. Specifically Ed Brubraker’s Fatale, Incognito and Criminal series. They were amazing, some of the best comics I’ve read in years. They also had next to nothing to do with superheroes which helped. I’d recommend them unreservedly.
But being short (each story arc is generally five to six issues) it didnt take long to make my way through them and I was again left looking for something to read. So I decided to give Mark Millar’s independent Millarworld stuff a go. My opinion of Millar’s work to date was mixed, his work in 2000AD was a bit all over the place and I didnt find it particularly memorable (Red Razors was quality though). None of his DC work stood out for me at all.
My opinion of his Marvel output was even more mixed, some of it was amazing (Ultimates v1, Ultimate X-Men v1-3, Ultimate Fantastic Four v1-3), some good (Wolverine: Enemy of the State), some mediocre (Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Ultimates v2), some of it was terrible (Civil War) and some of it was inexcusable, he wrote the worst Fantastic Four story arc I have ever seen/read. Then there was his standalone stuff like Wanted which started ok and then degenerated into sensationalism before ending with a big “Fuck You!” to all his readers. It felt like he’d reached that stage where he more or less hates what he does.
So going in I’d no huge expectations, the most recent thing of his I’d seen was the Kick Ass movie which I’d enjoyed (despite the fact Nicholas Cage was in it).
#1-4 / Complete
I started with Nemesis because it was the shortest and I remember seeing the tagline “What if Batman was a cunt?”. Well the answer to that question is that he’d be fairly boring. This just felt flat to me, it felt like it was written purely to appeal to film producers looking for something to option. It was chock full of unexciting spectacle and a juvenile sense of coolness. It failed even as a parody or satire on Batman and the attempt to salvage it with a twist ending failed. The pacing felt a bit rushed as well. On the other hand the artwork was quite nice. Maybe I’m just not in the target audience because there were plenty of bits where the panels cried out “Look at me I’m clever and cool!” and all I thought was, “No, no you are not.” I’d give it a miss.
#1-8 / Complete
I choose this to read after Nemesis because I’d enjoyed the movie and I wanted to cleanse my palate as it were. I enjoyed this, it wasnt amazing (I shouldnt have read all that Brubaker stuff, it clearly set the bar too high) but it was good solid entertainment. Dave was a lot more pathetic than he was in the film, much to my chagrin I also enjoyed the Nick Cage film version of Big Daddy than the comic one (the whole “I’m a comic collecting accountant!” twist didnt work for me at all). Hit Girl was done better in the comic and much like the film was my favourite thing about it. I thought the Kick-Ass vs Red Mist thing worked better in the comic. Overall I think if I wasnt already a fan of the film I would have enoyed this less. I’m normally not a huge fan of John Romita Jr.’s artwork but it worked really well for this.
#1-7 / Complete
This was published before the Hit Girl mini but is actually labelled as Book 3 while Hit Girl is Book 2, which annoys me on a spiritual level. This was, well, not good. The worst thing is that ten pages into the first issue theres a two page montage which shows all the twists and events that are going to happen in the rest of the story. It robs the story of any excitement. Dave (and the other real life superheroes) come across as increasingly pathetic in this and Red Mist / The Motherfucker is just, bizarre. It feel like the intent is that he comes across as bad ass crazy but he instead he comes across as an idiotic murderous spastic with multiple personalities. Its the inconsistent characterisation that ruins it for me. The best bits where the bits with Hit Girl. The worst bits were more or less everything else. Like a lot of Millar’s recent work it seems to confuse sensationalism (which continually fails to shock) with actual entertainment. I recall seeing people complain about the gang rape but to be honest I dont see what the fuss is. Its implied not shown and theres more or less no examination of the consequence. So I suppose I can see the issue in that its lazy and serves no purpose other than trying (and failing) to make the bad guy seem “Super Bad”. Yeah this was just disappointing.
#1-5 / Complete
This was great, Hit Girl training Kick Ass, her attempts to integrate into normal life, her kicking ass. Personally I found this to be the high point of the Kick Ass meta-series for me. As I mentioned under Kick Ass 2 in chronological terms this comes before Kick Ass 2. I’d suggest reading Kick Ass, then this, then cutting your losses.
#1-? / Ongoing
Do not want. Theres two issues out of this at the moment and its fucking abyssmal. Couldnt even finish the second issue. Dave has become a complete fucking loser, not in the generally pathetic but trying way he was in the earlier stuff, more in a “I no longer care about this guys story” way. Hit Girl is also not present due to events in KA2. So yeah, literally zero interest and every new character or conflict (and by that I mean trying to get overweight characters not to use your secret base as digs) just kills my interest further.
#1-4 / Complete
This vies with Hit Girl as my favourite of the Millarworld stuff. At its heart this is a classic heist story and it hits all the right notes. It takes a classic heist story and cleverly and entertainingly mixes in how superpowers could affect how its done. There’s also some nice little twists and some great characters. This really captures the kind of fresh and clever feeling that Millar’s best stuff possess’s. Well worth a read (unless you hate shit like the Italian Job, in which case stay well away)
#1-6 / Complete
Mark Millar writes a James Bond story that fails to capture any of the excitement or essence of the original. Oh, it also features turning a chav into a secret agent because thats subversive or some shit? This was so mediocre it was a chore to get through. It just felt so shallow, again it feels like a lot of Millar’s recent work is all sizzle no steak. There’s no substance to what he’s doing. It’s not terrible per se, just dreadfully average.
#1-7 / Complete
The setup and story is predictable. There’s a decent twist, there’s some nice characterisation and some lovely art. In the end it all gets wrapped up in a neat predictable bow. Best desrcibed as workmanlike I suppose. I’d say give it a read, its got some good moments.