"Kill or Be Killed #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
Colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser
2016, 36 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on August 3rd, 2016
I shouldn't even be writing this review. I should just stamp the words “Shut up and buy this” in big letters and be done with it. This is Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips we're talking about. If you don't know by now that anything these two work on is something you should read, I don't know what to tell you. Just in case you need more convincing, let's chat a bit about their latest collaboration, Kill or Be Killed.
The book opens with an absolutely brutal killing spree by a young man named Dylan. He's ranting about how screwed up society is as he's blowing people away with a shotgun. It conveys this message much better than others like God Bless America or Killdarlings. Dylan stalks the halls of his seedy apartment building, clad in a hoodie with his face covered up with a red ski mask. He's the epitome of someone you don't want to run into in a dark alley.
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Despite Dylan's internal monologue, the violence comes across as emotionless. He's performing a task and that involves murder. He's good at it, so he makes his way through his victims with efficiency. He runs into trouble with one guy, which leads to an even more cold-blooded sequence. Phillips allows your mind to fill in the real gore as we see Dylan slam the butt of his gun down repeatedly, yet we don't get a glimpse as to the result. Colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser makes these panels pop with a shocking red that lights up the background. It sets a red haze around the images as the gut-wrenching sound effects jump out.
After those opening pages, Brubaker jumps back to show how Dylan got to that point. Dylan's narration is jumpy, like he's uncomfortable explaining it even to himself. He stops at times as he remembers something he forgot to mention before. It comes through as more natural in this manner and definitely more relatable. He goes through emotions that so many of us have experienced. This also comes through in Phillips' artwork. Dylan looks like your average guy.
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Brubaker has said in his email newsletter that Kill or Be Killed is not what you think it is. If you judge it by those first few pages, you are missing a huge part of it. I don't want to spoil it because the hook is just so damn good. It's something that is completely unexpected, so when it creeps up, you're almost in shock reading it. Is this really happening? That can't be real. Oh, it is and it's an awesome turn. Phillips brings this forth in such a chilling way that it had me audibly yell out, “Holy shit.”
Kill or Be Killed is so friggin' good. It presents a premise that grips you so hard you'll be gasping for breath. Coupled with gorgeous artwork and stunning colors makes it a book you simply cannot miss. Buy it. Read it. Thank me later.