Comics Reviews: ''Kick-Ass," ''Wonder Woman''
Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
(Monthly; issue No. 1 is on sale now)
The cover proclaims, ''The Greatest Superhero Book Of All Time Is Finally Here!'' and that boast is illustrated with a gloved fist smashing a guy's head, splintering a wooden door. Such extravagant overstatement is both amusing and deceptive, for what writer Mark Millar (The Authority, Ultimates) and artist John Romita Jr. (Daredevil, World War Hulk) have done is both critique the superhero format and add a fresh variation on the non-super-powered superhero. Dave Lizewski is a self-described anonymous high schooler, neither nerd nor hipster. He gets off on fantasizing about being a costumed crusader and one day starts wearing a wet suit he bought on eBay as his hero uniform under his clothes to school or without his civilian clothes, but while unseen on rooftops, with his fantasies only increasing. Millar has Dave narrate his thoughts of escalating, would-be heroism: ''But, like a murderer, simply fantasizing would only cut it for so long. After a while, I had to engage....'' Meanwhile, Romita's artwork yields constant little surprises. He draws Dave rather cartoony, so that when actual violence erupts, it seems all the more realistic and painful. I don't want to give away the final few pages other than to say you'll wince, and you'll cheer. FOR FANS OF... The Amazing Spider-Man, Catcher in the Rye. DOES IT DELIVER? Indeed with a wallop of plainspoken eloquence. Millar writes in an afterword, ''God, I love this book,'' and his passion is infectious. This is one of those rare titles that uses familiar superhero tropes to fresh, novel effects, and with stinging emotion. A Ken Tucker
WONDER WOMAN: WHO IS WONDER WOMAN?
Allan Heinberg and Terry and Rachel Dodson
As writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) notes in his introduction, while Wonder Woman is as iconic as Batman and Superman, ''[she] has enjoyed far fewer truly memorable storylines than either of those characters, and not for lack of trying.'' In this graphic novel, Allan Heinberg a TV scribe (The O.C., Grey's Anatomy) best known for Marvel's nifty Young Avengers tries his best to rectify this situation. Set in the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, the story finds Diana Prince, the original Wonder Woman, self-retired and MIA from the world after betraying her Amazonian principles by killing a bad guy to save the world. But then a conspiracy of arch villains including Dr. Psycho, Cheetah, and Giganta kidnap the current Wonder Woman (her niece, Donna Troy) in hopes of flushing out the real deal-ette. This attracts the attention of the Department of Meta-Human Affairs, which decides that to resolve the matter they, too, must track down Ms. Original Recipe. So they give the case to their newest agent, Diana Prince a.k.a., Wonder Woman's alter-ego. So Heinberg has Wonder Woman basically looking for herself. Got that? Broad comedy and superhero action involving Wonder Woman's complete rogues gallery ensues. FOR FANS OF... Lame broad comedy and rote, standard superhero action. DOES IT DELIVER? Heinberg's set-up is actually pretty clever. So is rendering Diana Prince as the Sydney Bristow version of Clark Kent. But he either loses faith in it pretty quickly, or simply lacked the imagination to sustain both the intrinsic humor and dramatic richness of his premise over a long narrative. It quickly devolves into a poorly paced story with tediously repetitive battles and manufactured twists that seem largely designed to give artists Terry Dodson (and his wife, Rachel) a chance to draw heaving bosoms and massive butts on a who's who of DC female characters. With all due respect to Vaughan, chalk up yet another unmemorable storyline for this poorly served icon. C Jeff Jensen