Full disclosure: I am a fan of most of Kevin Smith’s work. His early films like Clerks and Mallrats were in heavy rotation in my DVD player when I was a teenager, and his work on Daredevil and Green Arrow helped reignite my love for superhero comics as I grew into adulthood. I’m also a staunch defender of his Batman books with Walk Flanagan, and nothing on this planet is going to dissuade me from thinking Dogma is something of a masterpiece. Ultimately, Smith was around at the right time in my life, so he will always have a certain level of goodwill in my book.
With all that being said, I will admit he doesn’t always knock it out of the park. His recent string of horror films have been disappointing, and some of his contributions to titles like Green Hornet just never clicked with me. When it was first announced he would be working on the ongoing Hit-Girl series, kicking off a four-issue arc with illustrator Pernille Ørum for the series' “second season,” I was equal parts excited and worried. The world Hit-Girl exists in is rife with nasty characters and toxic themes that can feel exploitative and gross in the wrong hands, and I wanted to believe Smith could do the subject matter justice.
In the appropriately titled “The Silent Era,” Smith and Ørum launch Mindy McCready’s odyssey to Tinsel Town and do so without saying a word (mostly). Hit-Girl Season Two #1 is a “silent” comic book, something that might come to a lot of people as a bit of a surprise seeing as how Smith is known for the sheer number of words that explode out of his mouth and into his stories. But Smith plays it like Silent Bob, delivering a single line of dialogue near the end of the issue. The only thing guiding us through this issue is the visuals, but with two creators who come from film-making and animation backgrounds at the helm, nothing is lost on the readers.
Even without any sort of text narration or exposition, this might be the most fluid issue of Hit-Girl so far, and that’s not a slight against previous story arcs. I really love this series and how each creative team tackles Hit-Girl from different angles while keeping the character consistent. Smith and Ørum, along with amazing colorist Sunny Gho, have crafted a work in the universal language of visual storytelling, which is quite special. The fact that the story is also engaging is almost a bonus.
Hit-Girl Season Two #1 tackles the ever-troubling crisis of school shootings in America by turning a horrific scenario into an action set piece for Hit-Girl to dispatch the shooters and save the day. It would be easy to see this as an exploitative move (which, you know, it is), but it’s a narrative choice that is consistent with the Kick-Ass universe, for better or ill. The creative team makes it work, and the fact no one is uttering a word on the page probably helps. Showing us something that induces crippling fear in parents everywhere without commentary is effective, somehow lessening the shock of it all while making it hauntingly tactile.
Ørum's high-fructose art helps create a level of separation between the audience and the subject matter. Seeing our titular superheroine look like she jumped out of an episode of DC Superhero Girls and then proceed lop off someone’s head with a sword is jarring and awesome. I wasn’t super familiar with Ørum's work before this, but my ten-year-old niece was (I’m not letting her read this issue, by the way; not yet, at least). The idea of clashing fun and sparkly with dour and gory is a shtick that will never get old for me. Bringing it all together are the colors; Gho is great at working with a color palette that fits the artwork and the tone of the story. The pastels and brighter tones work like gangbusters.
Gorgeous art and clever sight gags make Hit-Girl Season Two #1 a solid start to another bloody adventure for everyone’s favorite pint-sized killer. "Silent" comics seem like they might be tough to pull off, but Smith, Ørum and Gho are more than able to handle the challenge. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out when the characters open their mouths.