I read Kick Ass #1 today, and loved the debut issue more than almost any new comic I've read in many months. It reminded me of a dramatically improved second draft of Millar's Wanted ( which I liked, though it wasn't my favorite work ); both stories start with a middle-class nobody choosing the superhuman life as an escape from societal alienation. However, Kick-Ass already looks like it'll be better, because while Wesley Gibson went from a loser to a successful criminal mastermind without much hardship, Dave Lizewski faces the obvious consequences of enacting his juvenile power fantasy. The character writing is also better established ( Dave's emotional map is more complex, and his reactions ring truer ), and John Romita Jr.'s rough, jagged world fits the story much better than the sleek, glamorous art that J.G. Jones provided for Wanted.
Not sure how this story is going to end up, but the fact that Millar and JR Jr. are talking about further Kick-Ass stories really raised my spirits. Contrary to the intentionally hyperbolic ad campaign, Kick-Ass is not the Greatest Superhero book of All Time, because it isn't really a superhero book. It's a scatching commentary on the superhero genre, and how easily it falls apart when faced with reality. Except, unlike with Civil War, Kick-Ass intends to make this fact clear.
But then, since this book joins the growing category of spectacularly cynical superhero comics ( also included are Millar's previous Wanted and other works, Ennis and Robertson's The Boys, Ellis' Thunderbolts, and Grant Morrison's X-Men run ), it's gotten complaint from fans of superheroes. And while taste is subjective, there have been comments that trouble me, such as this one from lower on the boards..."
Along with some others. Looks like Kick Ass is pretty much just a heavy R-Rated comic with as much swearing and cheap thrills as you can smash into 22 pages. In the few pages there you get testicular electrocution, teenage masturbation fantasies, and the F bomb more than once at least It reminds me of something I would have gotten my jollies from sneaking a look at Heavy Metal Magazine about 25 or so years ago.
Of course, this comment implicitly derides not just Kick-Ass, but R-Rated material in general. Yes, there was testicular electrocution, masturbation references, coarse language, and a lot of violence towards the end. But there was always reason behind the explicit content. The point of Kick-Ass is that the world Dave lives in is not the Marvel Universe, and he is not a morally upstanding citizen like Peter Parker. He's a misanthropic teenaged boy who gets aroused and has violent power fantasies like everyone else. The scenes with him lusting after the opposite sex and picking fights with taggers ( fights which he obviously loses ) are the most dramatic examples, but there were a lot of more subtle and even touching scenes as well ( re: the flashback to his Mom's aneurysm; Dave fantasizes about swearing vengeance a la a young Bruce Wayne, but in reality he just plays video games until he can't feel anymore. Also, the scenes with his still-grieving father were similarly effective ). This series does not fall into the realm of shock for shock's sakes.
And as for " getting my jollies from Heavy Metal Magazine "; while teenagers do enjoy " edgy " material ( I am disgusted with myself for using that word ), my experiences as a teenager were much different. Sure, I enjoyed my share of gross-out humor and sexual innuendo, but I also credit a good portion of my intellectual development to Vertigo. Books like Preacher and Transmetropolitan were shocking, but they were also brilliant and ambitious, and they were available in a format that was very accessible to my tastes at the time. And they got me into reading non-superheroic material, a direction which has not steered me wrong.