You could be forgiven for struggling to remember the last issue of Kick Ass. It has, after all, been a while. Luckily, it was never the kind of comic too concerned with intricate plot mechanics, and we've already had the series' only major twist in the last issue, with the humiliation and death of one of the leading cast members. All that remains is for the denouement to play out as you'd expect.
And largely, it does. The structure of the issue is pure Mark Millar, veering from bleak cynicism to hyper-violence to raw emotion without too much interest in making a natural tonal transition. As long as you're comfortable with that, there's plenty to enjoy. Millar and Romita provide the most relentlessly violent issue yet, crammed with plot pay-offs, and even the punchline to a joke set up way, way back. It's as satisfying a read as any final chapter can be.
There is a sense that the plot is being wrapped up a little too quickly, as the bulk of the issue is taken up with the fight, while only the last few pages resolves more serious story questions - the aftermath of Big Daddy's death, Hit Girl's fate, Dave's subplot with Katie - but then if you were reading Kick Ass for the plot, you were reading the wrong book. After an extended, almost sober action sequence (by "Kick Ass"' standards), the dark humor is fully back on display for the epilogue, and in particular the very last sequence, which makes for a nicely circular ending to the series.
As a comic fan, it's easy to take offense at the depiction of our kind in the book -- but in the end, Dave is the hero, and he does come out on top in his own way. It's not a traditionally upbeat ending but, then, who would expect that of a series like this?
Even if the writing isn't to your taste, it's impossible to deny that Romita's artwork helps make the book great. Freed from the constraints of Marvel's more mainstream-friendly superhero output, there's an enthusiasm and rawness to his work that seems to represent the artist's joy at being asked to draw something far beyond his usual fare. That's not to say he isn't still at his best when asked to depict quieter, more emotional moments. That, after all, is where a master artist like Romita proves his worth to a book like Kick Ass, in successfully shouldering the burden of selling those mute instances alone.
Kick Ass arrived on the scene like a boot in the face, never compromising or apologizing for what it was, and in the end it only works on the same level as Frank Millar's "All Star Batman" -- either you enjoy the sheer absurdity, or you don't -- and for those of us that do, this issue provides as satisfying a punchline to the joke as we could've hoped for.