By: Mark Millar (writer/co-creator), John Romita, Jr. (pencils/co-creator), Tom Palmer (inks & washes), Dean White (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: With Hit-Girl in jail, what will the other heroes do?

Review: This was a pretty sedate return for Kick-Ass.  If you’ve followed the Kick-Ass miniseries, you know we’re now at a point where Hit-Girl has been incarcerated for her vigilante ways and Kick-Ass has formed a team of costumed adventurers.

Mark Millar really seems to asking the question of what Kick-Ass will do now that his talisman (Hit-Girl) has been removed from the equation.  We all know what would happen in the pages of Batman or Daredevil or Punisher (or some other made-up superhero): Kick-Ass would free Hit-Girl from prison and the “team” would embark of a path of vengeance against the villains and cops who had put them in such a postion.  Mark Millar really isn’t interested in telling that sort of story.  He’s more interested in exploring what would really happen to a kid like Kick-Ass who has lost his leader and is discovering that his “team” is a pack of losers.

Lost amidst the blood and guts of the overall Kick-Ass story is the question of, “What makes a hero?”  When Dave started being Kick-Ass, it was mostly just for fun; he didn’t think he’d really end up fighting with anyone.  Along the way, he got into a few fights and learned that street fights are vicious and more likely to involve sucker-punches, shanks and curb-stomps than any of the glorious martial arts action we see heroes depicting on TV and in the movies.  It’s savage, savage stuff.  But we learned that Dave might really have the toughness to still be a hero.  In the last few cycles of the story, he’s worked more closely with Hit-Girl (the only person in the story with truly awesome abilities) and his team of like-minded heroes.  Along the way, Dave/Kick-Ass has been brave, but he’s always been acting as part of a group.

Now we see Dave without Hit-Girl or any real help from his team.  It’s probably easy to be brave and stand up for what is right when (i) you stand with the Pixie of Death (Hit-Girl) OR (ii) you are part of a mob.  It’s a LOT harder to be brave when you have to stand alone, and that is what Kick-Ass is faced with now that Hit-Girl is in jail and his “team” has lost the spirt to fight.  As is common with Millar, there’s actually something profound underneath all the noise.

As you’d expect with Kick-Ass, there are lots of pop-culture references and bits of humor directed at geeks.  Such as when Kick-Ass discovers that one of the “team” is actually living full-time in their lair because he’s fallen on hard financial times.  Of course, since the guy is a geek, he has that Kevin Smith-look (overweight + beard) and is making a slobby mess of the place.  And, that is where most writers would drop the joke.  What I love about Millar is that he continues to push on the idea by having us see that the geek’s girlfriend is driving Hit-Girl’s car to to buy snacks and The Avengers box set for a Marvel Phase I movie marathon.  Oh, and since he is broke, he took all the money from the “team” petty cash supply.  Perfect…

What was missing from this issue was anything overly bloody and gross.  I don’t mind that stuff, but it is strange to not see Millar getting reactions with violence in Kick-Ass.  Maybe he thinks he can’t top the scene from a few issues ago when the villains decapitated a dog and man and swapped the heads?

The art is fine, but this really isn’t a series about “the art”.  Romita, Jr. is really just there to illustrate Millar’s story and he does it well.  The action is always crystal clear and we never have a page where there are any gratuitous art flourishes that don’t serve the story.

Conclusion: I’m glad to have the series back.  If you push past all the violence and outrageous stuff, Millar and Romita are really just showing that it is hard to be a hero and therefore, heroes should be admired.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell