Four Letter Nerd

4LN Comic Review – Kill Or Be Killed #1

Series: Kill Or Be Killed
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics

Summary from Comixology: “The bestselling team of ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS (THE FADE OUT, CRIMINAL, FATALE) launch their new monthly series: KILL OR BE KILLED, the twisted story of a young man who is forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret as it slowly ruins his life and the lives of his friends and loved ones. Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, KILL OR BE KILLED is unlike anything BRUBAKER & PHILLIPS have ever done.”

Kill Or Be Killed #1

We live in an increasingly aggressive society. How many news stories come through your social media feeds about people committing violent and heinous crimes against some unsuspecting victim? You’ve probably seen at least a dozen today already. In a society that feels like it’s becoming more and more volatile and aggressive it’s no wonder why characters like Daredevil and The Punisher are enjoying newfound popularity. We like watching people get hurt, but REALLY like watching bad people get hurt. So much so that, if I speak for most of us like I think I do, we’re disappointed when our comic or TV/film vigilante does the “noble” thing and lets the criminal go. We’re obsessed with violence but we can easily justify it when it’s against a murderer or rapist. That’s sort of the idea that Kill Or Be Killed is based around. Not based ON, per se, but it definitely gets close.

Kill Or Be Killed #1

You can say a lot of things about Ed Brubaker. Some say he’s a visionary. Others call him a genius. Me, I call him father. Shit. No. Wait. That’s not right. I meant to say that, me, I call him a genius visionary, because I’m better than all of those people. One thing you can’t say about Ed, though, is that he’s obvious. My previous Daredevil and Punisher references are solely meant to express our cultural fascination with vigilantism. Kill Or Be Killed is not really a story similar to anything ever told with those characters. There’s a supernatural element that presents itself and adds a depth that’s more similar to, but not resembling, Spawn than, say, Batman. The tangible elements of the story do dominate, however, and feel more natural than anything you’d get in a “mainstream” vigilante style comic. Brubaker does that better than almost anyone; write people in their inherent environment, making them feel fleshed out and real instead of just some two dimensional characters. Here, he takes Dylan, our protagonist, and delves into his psyche so that we can see his faults, his perceived failures, his desires, and his struggle to reconcile what’s in his head with what’s in his heart. Sound familiar? Like, maybe it reflects pretty much everyone? Exactly. It makes you feel like, whether Dylan is crazy or delusional or what, whatever it is, that could just as easily be you. That were all just one bad day away from… well, you get it.

Kill Or Be Killed #1

I’m not sure what I can say about Sean Phillips’ artwork that hasn’t been said better about a million times. The man is just a consummate professional. He draws beautiful panels and captures nuances, like certain facial expressions or structural details, that just keep you captivated in the story. And how about that cover? It’s just a fantastic solo piece of artwork. Even if the comic didn’t exist there’s still so much emotion that picture can instigate in you.

The coloring on KOBK is done by Elizabeth Breitweiser, who works on Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta, and previously worked with Brubaker and Phillips on… well on just about everything they’ve done, but most recently The Fade Out (which I f***ing LOVED). You could say that she’s their third musketeer. Her work really brings the whole dynamic of this issue together. She has a clever intuition for using the right color tone to help completely capture the emotion of a panel. There’s one specific one that comes to mind, when Dylan is sitting on the couch watching TV with is friend Kira and roommate Mason, who, to Dylan’s chagrin, are dating, and the blue that she paints the panel with makes you really feel the loneliness. It’s almost painful.

Kill Or Be Killed #1

If you’re already a fan of Brubaker’s & Phillips’ past series’ then I probably don’t have to convince you to pick up this book. However, if you’re someone who’s just curious and looking to pick up a new series then I strongly urge you to consider this one. It’s an inventive take on the vigilante genre with fantastic artwork that will completely pull you into the story. Head down to your local comic shop today a grab a copy for yourself. I expect you’ll be just as impatient for issue #2 as I am now.


Music Pairing – 

Ok, so this may be a little obvious, but you have to partner Kill Or Be Killed with the heavy jams of Killer Be Killed, a metal supergroup featuring Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Greg Puciatio (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta). (Note: Elitch was actually recently replaced by Converge drummer Ben Koller, but he still played on these tracks.)

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Stephen Andrew

Stephen has spent most of his life reading comics, watching horror movies, listening to death metal music, and speaking in the third person. His favorite comic book character is The Punisher, and he believes that the Punisher: War Zone movie is criminally underrated. His favorite film of all-time is National Lampoon's Vacation, and his favorite album is Pantera's "The Great Southern Trendkill".

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