*Contains some spoilers*
This is the penultimate issue for the entire series, so writer and franchise co-creator Mark Millar dedicates a decent amount of time to setting the stage for the twisted franchise's ending. Everyone is shifted into place and now it's just a matter of seeing how Millar plans to wrap it all up. But before looking to the future, Millar makes sure this second to last issue is a worthwhile ride, too.
What goes down with Chris is somewhat predictable yet still pretty satisfying. Without blatantly giving anything away, I will say I was not only happy to see a lot play out more or less how I thought it would, but Millar also made sure to include a brief yet very important dialogue. While the first bit or so is indeed predictable, what follows is something I certainly didn't see coming. In a book with so much over the top violence, this was a nice change of pace and allowed for something a little more meaningful. While I'm sure some would want to see him meet a gruesome end and it's what people have come to expect from this series, this felt more fitting. Chris dies suffering, alone, afraid, and fully aware that nothing he could ever do would make up for his horrific actions. Saving Hit-Girl doesn't redeem his actions in the least and his epiphany came far too late. He's a terrible person that meets a depressing end. This, to me at least, seems more appropriate than making his Dave bash in his head or something along those lines.
One moment aside, I love how the violence isn't over the top in this chapter (or in this volume, really). Excess gore is something we've seen time and time again, and it can only surprise you so much. So instead of feeling like we're seeing more of the same, the graphic nature is held back to the point where it's still effective yet never blatantly ridiculous. I mean, the book is by no means diving into PG territory and I'm sure there will be some well-earned craziness in the last issue, but in this one, it's just enough to stay true to the franchise's brutal tone without aiming to shock.
Teasing the finale comes as a bit of a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, it's trying a little too hard to deliver an ominous tone -- I'll elaborate about that below. But on the other hand, it feels like a much deserved sendoff before a major character potentially dies. There's good chemistry between these two and this final scene generates a fairly touching display of affection. Plus, it leaves me clueless about how it'll all end. Millar made sure to give both of these characters "kiss of death" tropes. So unlike the last issue's cliffhanger, I now legitimately have no idea what to expect next.
John Romita Jr.'s quality fluctuates a tad in some scenes, and this is definitely noticeable when he brings his A game for a couple of big moments. That said, I never thought any of the pages were bad. Sure, human heads feel a bit exaggerated from time to time, but you have to admire the sheer vitality he puts into each scene. The fact there's two colorists adds to the occasionally inconsistent look; however, along with Tom Palmer's inks, the lighting effects are brought to life exceptionally well. From being immersed in water to a muzzle flash illuminating a character, there's some impressive displays of vivid colors and shading. Yes, I've listed some minor gripes with the visuals, but overall, they're solid and stays true to the looks we've come to expect from this series.
While I love how the foreshadowing has me guessing, it feels a little too exaggerated during the final scene. Given all the craziness they've been through, it felt a little odd for Dave to say this upcoming mission feels different than the other ridiculously dangerous things he's endured. He's obviously nervous and has every right to be, but this came off as a wee bit blunt.
Did Dave really need to kill that guy? I get he was a potential threat, but knocking him out -- when the dude is already down and basically harmless -- wasn't an option? I know Dave's focus is on saving his friend and he'd do anything to save her, but killing the dude didn't seem necessary. Romita Jr. made it look awesome, but it felt like violence just for the sake of violence.
The end is nigh, and Millar's making damn sure you're aware of it. This penultimate issue races towards the series' conclusion and does a more than ample job building the hype for the big finale. He lays it on a bit too thick with some of the dialogue towards the end, but despite that, this issue is certain to leave any KICK-ASS fan anxious to see how it'll all come to a close. Personally, I'm stoked to see what he'll deliver in this big finish. It's definitely looking like it'll be action-packed, but hopefully it's crammed with some gripping displays of emotion as well. How funny would it be if Milllar's been trolling us this entire time and both main characters live?