Kill or be Killed Volume II
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Review by PeteR
Dylan’s life is beyond bleak. His father’s suicide grafts a vastly fatalistic view on the events of his life. Dylan spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about the fairness or mostly unfairness of existence and how his bad his is. The fact that the girl of his dreams, Kira is sleeping with his roommate, Mason doesn’t help. Dylan’s life is so bad that he tried to kill himself but being a massive loser means that he can’t even do that right. How can someone mess up throwing themselves off a six story building? By changing their mind at the last second then having their fall buffered by various cloths and electric lines. Of course, having a giant, wrathful demon waiting for you at the bottom, claiming he saved your life and you demanding a price, may have something to do with it.
The demon demands the Dylan murder a person every month. The demon sweetens the deal (marginally) by saying the person can be a “bad guy”, an evil creep. Someone Dylan decides deserves to be killed. If Dylan doesn’t make his monthly killing, the demon is going to slaughter him. Of course, it’s hard to exterminate someone once a month without someone taking notice, even in New York City.
Lily Sharpe is a police detective in Port Chester. She is tired of bureaucracies and laziness. Dylan’s activities have made her connect some of the dots to whom this new serial killer may be. Sharpe has seen enough of governmental ineptitude and wants to stop whoever is committing these crimes. The Russian mob getting involve doesn’t help. The other challenge, as Dylan goes about filling his monthly quotient is, maybe there are no demons and he’s just crazy.
Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Fade-Out and Criminals) tells intricate, extended epics. He is a master at writing about people’s motivations and thoughts, the self-doubt that rages inside anyone with an IQ above room temperature. Sure, your average person may hide it well, but the second guessing, the rehashing of one’s worst decisions, that continuously gnaw away and keep people up at night, Ed Brubaker brings those feeling kicking, bawling and howling into the spotlight. “Sometimes when I think about my family, all I can see are the thousand little wounds that made us who we are.” Being able to intersperse that kind of character insight in a comic book about a vigilante killer adds a depth to Kill or be Killed Vol. II that you don’t get from a Punisher comic or Death Wish.
Criminal, The Sleeper and Batman artist, Sean Phillips’ art improves with each new comic series. His work is detailed and precise. His use of light source is spot on. It feels like Sean Phillips has entered into a Grey Morrow aesthetic. In Kill or be Killed Vol. II, Phillips implements two different styles. The first is the art work he uses for the events of the story . The second and more startling in its beauty is the artwork that represents the illustrations Dylan’s father did for various science fiction/sex magazines before he died. These evocative pieces of art are few, but they are visually arresting.
Part of what makes these paintings, attributed to Dylan’s father, are the hues deployed by Outcasts, Fade Out and Velvet colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser. On page 94, aside from the buxom, topless, she-devil with the whip, look at the shades of color used on the iron maiden in the background. It’s not just the subtle oxidation on the metal, it’s the red hues that radiate from the protagonist reflecting off the inside of the door and onto the spikes that illuminate the care Breitweiser used on this page. The coloring on the other 180 pages of Kill or be Killed Vol. II is terrific, but that one page stands out.
Why you should buy this book? Kill or be Killed Vol. II is a brilliant piece of crime noir with a great deal of emotional reflection added. Each character has their moment of self-reflection that allows the reader greater insight into their perspectives and responses. The action is deftly orchestrated for maximum impact. Each chapter increases the pull of the vortex as the lives of the characters get sucked deeper into the maelstrom of Dylan’s actions.
Kill or be Killed Vol II reprints issues #5 to 10 of the series.
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