Superheroes KICK ASS

This week Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass rocketed to the top of the NYT Graphic Books Hardcover Best Seller list. Heralded as one of the very few comics to treat superhero traditions realistically while also taking place in our world, Kick-Ass is a darkly humorous look at what might actually happen if a disgruntled teenager decided to don a costume and take to the streets to fight crime. Namely, he’d suffer horrifying injuries and have little, if any, success. The key is not giving up. The film adaptation (see trailer here) is due out in theaters April 16th, so the buzz on this first collection is high and gaining ground. Worldcat shows that only 19 public libraries own it, and in my system the reserves have been going steadily up.

Mark Millar
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Marvel Books
ISBN / EAN: 0785134352 / 9780785134350


Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie
Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Retail Price: $19.95
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Titan Books – (2010-02-23)
ISBN / EAN: 1848564090 / 9781848564091

While only a handful of comics present superheroes in our own world, there are a number of series that should appeal to the readers of Kick-Ass.

Millar is famous for pushing boundaries in terms of violence, and he has a blast defying the conventions of superhero stories. The Authority, which Millar took on after the equally acerbic series creator Warren Ellis departed, takes the trope of a superhero team and mucks up their missions with fascist agendas, reckless destruction, and bitter infighting. The world at large begins to question just why these people are in charge, and realizes perhaps too late that The Authority dictates behavior precisely because they have the power and no one is capable of stopping them.

The Authority Vol. 1: Relentless
Warren Ellis
Retail Price: $17.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Wildstorm – (2000-05-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1563896613 / 9781563896613

Warren Ellis has created numerous series over the years that share that glee for flying in the face of expectations and reveling in dirtying up the perception of what people do with their superpowers. The most irreverent of these is the out-to-shock humor of Nextwave, a series that pulls a number of forgotten heroes from Marvel pages and unleashes them as one of the most dysfunctional teams yet portrayed on the page. The key to this series is humor rather than grit, but the series includes wonderfully rendered action sequences and a strong attitude.

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. Ultimate Collection TPB
Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen
Retail Price: $34.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics – (2010-03-10)
ISBN / EAN: 0785144617 / 9780785144618

Akin to Ellis’s lighter side, Adam Warren’s manga-style superheroine comic Empowered has gained fans with every issue. Empowered follows the struggles of one young woman to be the best superhero she can be despite crippling self-esteem issues, a power-giving suit that barely holds together, and a less than stellar record of heroic saves. Her buxom form is frequently on display in her skin-tight, constantly ripping suit, so the sexy imagery is high and may keep readers from realizing how engagingly critical the series is. Empowered is a laugh-out-loud satire of female superheroes and Warren knows very well how to skewer the genre.

Empowered Volume 1
Adam Warren
Retail Price: $15.95
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse – (2007-04-04)
ISBN / EAN: 159307672X / 9781593076726

Brian Michael Bendis’s epic superhero police procedural, Powers, mixes superheroes with noir and constructs true-to-life policies that would fall into place if superheroes existed. In the world of Powers, if have to have actual super-abilities to don a costume. If you don’t, masked heroism is illegal. The second collected edition in the series, Roleplay, takes a hard look at fans and what happens when ordinary folks get mixed up in trying to be superheroes without any true power or skill.

Powers Vol. 2: Roleplay (v. 2)
Brian Michael Bendis
Retail Price: $13.95
Paperback: 0 pages
Publisher: Image Comics – (2002-01-04)
ISBN / EAN: 1582406952 / 9781582406954

If it’s teenage superheroes readers want, one of the best recent continuing series is Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, which covers Mark Grayson’s coming of age as both an ordinary teenager and as the super-powered son of Omni-Man. He’s inherited many of his father’s strengths, but he must also contend with his father’s secrets. Kirkman and artist Cory Walker display impeccable senses of comic timing and family dynamics.

Invincible (Book 1): Family Matters (v. 1)
Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker
Retail Price: $12.99
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Image Comics – (2007-01-18)
ISBN / EAN: 1582407118 / 9781582407111

Special thanks to James Sime, of Isotope, the coolest comic book lounge I know, for help in brainstorming titles.

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