Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kill Or Be Killed #1 Review

Kill Or Be Killed #1 from Image Comics -

     Dylan was a milquetoast emotional wreck. The first time he'd tried to kill himself, he overdosed on pills, but he only ended up hospitalized and tossed out of college. However, the second time he tried it, things went from bad to worse, opening a door to darkness in Dylan's life that he could never have imagined possible. Dylan had never been strong, never been a fighter. Life always just happened to him, passing day by day in a haze of grad-school coursework as he watched the girl he loves waste herself on his roommate. All this prompted Dylan's second suicide attempt - an attempt that he walked away from with his heart full of gratitude; mid-sucididal act, Dylan realized that as much as his life sucked, he still wanted to live, to try and make something of himself. He thought that surviving his surefire suicide meant that he was free, that he had gained a new lease on life. But he was wrong, so very, very wrong. When the devil himself visits Dylan demanding payment for letting him live, Dylan is horrified to find that his actions will cost him an unimaginable price. Every month Dylan must snuff out the life of one bad person...Or the devil will come for him. Dylan has no choice, no option, and no way out - it's kill or be killed.

   "Kill Or Be Killed" is another Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips collaboration. These two have worked together on several occasions, and the result is usually something akin to magic. While "Kill Or Be Killed" isn't quite magic, it does have that signature Brubaker street-level grit to it - it's Charles Bronson's "Death Wish" headed up by an emo protagonist with a possible supernatural twist. I say possible supernatural twist, because honestly, I am still not sure that Dylan hasn't gone bat-crap nuts. Whatever the case, when we first meet Dylan, he's already a few years into his killing spree, and the kid's has developed a knack for whacking bad guys. Brubaker then rewinds time, and gives us a full comic of exposition which explains Dylan's journey into darkness, and his necessary transformation from a timid, suicidal emo to the king of the freakin' jungle. No doubt, Brubaker writes a compelling protagonist, he really makes you feel for Dylan (what you feel probably depends on your general belief system). The sudden supernatural turn felt way out of place, totally from left field - it kind of skewered the story in a weird, Donny-Darko-type of way. Has Dylan had a psychotic break, or is he really being stalked by the devil? Since the story is told mostly through Dylan's own words and memories in the captions and panels, the obvious question is this: Is Dylan a trustworthy narrator? It's impossible to really say right now, but it is all very fascinating. Sean Phillips, as usual, is in tip-top form, perfectly communicating Bubaker's view of a dark, corrupt world onto the page with gorgeous pencils and expert use of light and shadow. If this weren't enough, movie critic, Devin Faraci, wraps up the first issue by giving us a very interesting analysis on Bronson's "Death Wish" in a short essay in the back of the issue. Not a bad showing for the first issue.

RATING: 8 out of 10. While this book hasn't swept me away like other Brubaker/Phillips collabos, this book has just enough of that signature Brubaker grit and tight writing style to bring me back to see just what the heck is going to happen in issue #2.

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