Filed under: Comic Reviews, Features, Millarworld Comics | Tags: John Romita JR, Kick-Ass, Leinil Francis Yu, Mark Millar, Millarworld, Nemesis, Steve McNiven, Superior
Here’s the final part of our SPOTLIGHT ON feature on Mark Millar – click on the links to find parts one and two, where we’ve gone through Mark’s time at Marvel and DC. Our final part focuses on his more recent creator owned work. Make sure to check back very soon where we’ll be holding another competition, this time giving away signed Millar comics.
Although Wanted marks the start of Millar’s creator owned work, it’s really Kick-Ass that gets the ball rolling with the first of his Millarworld comics. Now onto it’s second series, Kick-Ass has convinced a generation that we don’t always need to be reading about our favourite heroes from Gotham or Metropolis each month, but instead enjoy the freedom that creator owned affords the writers and artists.
Like Wanted before it, Millar really let’s rip with Kick-Ass, telling us exactly the kind of story that he wants to tell – and it’s something that has remained in all of his follow up creator owned work. This story is a labour of love, with lots of personal touches from Millar’s own life – from the urge to learn karate as a 15 year old to fight crime with his friend (he never quite made it out onto the street – but his friend got a green belt!) and his promise to his daughter that he’d write her a character she could relate to (which unfortunately turned into a violent C-Bomb dropping ninja-hero). It’s these touches that make the story much more believable and enjoyable to read.
Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski, a sixteen year old comic book fan, who wonders why no one in the real world has tried to do what’s done in comics, and fight crime as a masked hero. With no training, Dave’s alter ego Kick-Ass struggles to stop any significant crime without getting himself severely wounded, so it isn’t until he meets Hit-Girl and Big-Daddy, a father-daughter combo with some serious skills, weapons and foul language, that Kick-Ass is able to do some proper damage. To say that the trio get in over their heads is an understatement, facing up against the city’s organised crime and getting their asses well and truly kicked.
The story is funny, action-packed and emotional all in one, and it’s helped along nicely by the stellar artwork from John Romita Jr (who worked with Millar perviously on Wolverine Enemy of the State). The difference between Wolvie and Kick-Ass though is the personal touch that JRJR brings to the book too. Although this is a creator owned universe, it really does feel like stepping into the “Millarworld” when looking at JRJR’s work. It’s a cliché used all the time – but there really is nothing else out there that looks like this, it’s magnificent.
The second series of Kick-Ass is ongoing at the moment, but has been shaping up as a fitting follow up, guaranteed to end with a bang. Millar has plans for a third series also, along with some Hit-Girl spin of series that will complete the set. Not forgetting the fantastic film that was made of the first series, which is also being followed up with a sequel.
There’s plenty to get into in the world of Kick-Ass, and it’s definitely a recommended starting place for those new to Millar’s work.
Following the success of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass creator-owned project, he teamed up with Steve McNiven to bring us Nemesis…..a title which brought a wave of hype and controversy in equal measure.
Now Millar & McNiven have already worked on some significant titles in the Marvel Universe….with Civil War marking an epic turning point in the Marvel Universe, then teaming up again for the post-apocalyptic look at the Marvel Universe with the amazing Old Man Logan…..so let’s be fair here….these guys know how to produce a good book for the comic buying masses….so surely a joint-creator-owned title would be a success.
Nemesis DID bring them success….and with a movie-project linked with the title from the off….it had to be good…right?? Well the answer to that is yes, it IS a good title….not their best work it has to be said but definitely a significant part of the comic book “must-reads”. The basic premise for the book is that Nemesis is a character with the mind of the Joker and resources of Bruce Wayne/Batman. As a selling point…that’s a doozy………but with a mix of success/stumbling blocks along the way…at least for me.
Now I’m not adverse to violence….and following the content of the previously mentioned Kick-Ass….I almost expected it…..the controversy brought on by the early rumours of its content would ensure that I knew what to expect. There’s brutal, blood-splattering imagery from the off….and with the contrast of Nemesis and his white, almost angelic costume messing with my head from the 1st page to the last…..it’s amazing how “normal” this sense of violence has become…..maybe a reflection on the world we live in….or maybe Millar testing boundaries.
There’s some key moments in the book that ensure we know that Millar is testing (and in some cases breaking) the boundaries that exist within the element of good-taste in comic-book…or any other media form for that matter. It all centres on Nemesis declaring his next target, the head of Washington’s police force Blake Morrow – the top cop and example to forces the world over.
Through the course of the book we see Nemesis plan out and take down his targets with precision and in the most elaborate ways imaginable and his arrival in Washington on-board Air Force One while kidnapping the President is evidence of the set-pieces on show here….and there’s punchy dialogue throughout with a slightly more muted tone to the artwork….possibly in attempt to make the blood stand-out on every page.
Attack after attack comes in the book but always as part of Nemesis’ warped plan which gives it more meaning and maybe makes us more accepting of it as it’s leading us onto the next phase….but the most controversial and harrowing part of the book is when Morrow’s son and daughter are kidnapped by Nemesis and returned safely. I say safely but the headline thrown in of “Police Chief’s Daughter Pregnant by her Gay Brother” would pretty much sum up how bad it could get …right?? Wrong – in a cruel twist his daughter’s womb has been rigged to collapse if they try to abort.
Now as bad taste goes…..we’ve passed that a while ago….and I think this is what makes this just a bit too much. The Comics Anon team have seen (and interviewed) Millar on several different occasions….and he’ll say himself how surprised he was at this being allowed to be published….and even more amazed that he could even think of something like this. Needless to say, this will probably be cut for any celluloid version that they bring to the wider movie-going audience.
Now I’m not going to dwell any further on these facts….the main focus of this has to be the good vs bad nature of the 4-issue arc and as it plays out with Nemesis against Morrow in a chess match of bloody proportions. Strange thing on this title is….I’m never really sure whose side to be on….and that’s maybe the real magic of a curveball title like this. Morrow’s the cop, so I should be on his side….but I can’t help but think that the guy in the costume should have his day……a strange place to find yourself.
The book climaxes with a final face-off…..and a fade out in the last few pages that spans the following years and a final twist that left me with a “No F$%£ing way!!” response. This is supposedly planned as the 1st in a 3 chapter story…and the twist leaves it open for that to happen….my only worry here is that we don’t get more……as I’m sure that’s the only way we’d be really satisfied by Nemesis. Without more we could be lost in the wash of blood and left quite hollow……time’ll tell on whether Mr Millar’s schedule will allow him to return to the title….but I’m hopeful that with a movie involved….we’ll see the remaining chapters of Nemesis crop up in our comic book stores in the future.
After attempting to create a comic suitable for his Daughter, which ended up being fairly inappropriate (Kick-Ass), then creating an all-out action book with no holds barred (Nemesis) Millar created Superior, the comic with the biggest heart of them all. That’s not to say that there’s still plenty of action and f’ing & blinding in it, but it does have a much more cinematic, family friendly feel to it, helped along by some stunning artwork from Leinil Francis Yu.
Superior tells the tale of a boy, Simon Pooni, with multiple sclerosis, whose life has become increasingly more difficult in the last few years as his condition worsens. Simon’s life turns on its head when he’s granted his wish to become Superior, a superhero that only exists in comics and films. Think of it as “Big” meets “Superman”, but in not too much of a clichéd way.
Like many of Millar’s creator owned work, the theme of Superheroes in everyday life is very much present here. Unlike Kick-Ass though, Simon has actual powers that can fix the everyday threats we face in real life – terrorists, nuclear reactor meltdowns, stranded submarines, crashing space stations etc, and it’s all dealt with in a great way. This is still a young boy’s mind in the body of a grown up superhero, but yet this is where the heart really comes in – he doesn’t do what every young boy would do with super powers (i.e. show off and perv on girls) but uses them for good, helping his fellow citizens and the world.
There is a little light relief from all this hard work, messing with bullies who used to tease him and having the President of the USA set up the opportunity to play basketball with the Knicks, meaning that this comic isn’t just a serious look at all the things wrong with the world. There’s also a fairly decent “twist” to the book, which is helping it shape up for a stunning climax.
The series is yet to finish, wrapping up with a double sized final issue due out in December. Like most of his other creator owned work, Superior is also being made into a movie, working with his good friend Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men First Class) and out of everything this is probably one of the most perfect ones. I’ll be surprised if much gets changed in the process, and if the swearing was kept to a minimum, this could be a summer box office hit suitable for the whole family, something akin to Super 8 which has a very 80’s/90’s feel to it.
I look forward to reading the end of this series and hope that Superior becomes a regular Millarworld character.
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