Rating: 5/5 – A Great Crime Drama Horror Coming of Age Story!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
I’ll follow creators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips to whatever project they decide to do. I absolutely loved The Fade Out as it looked at and perfectly captured the golden age of Hollywood and the exceptional story Fatale combined a mix of horror and crime that delivered from beginning to end. Also, you can look at Criminal, Sleeper, and Incognito high bars in comic book storytelling from both the writing and artistic perspective. Now, the two collaborators are back together again on Kill or Be Killed and so far it looks to be just as great their previous works!
Kill or Be Killed is a crime book. It’s also a drama. It’s also a horror and coming of age story. All of these things combine to form a first issue that hooked me right away and has me excited for what’s to come in this all new series. We meet main character Dylan in the book’s opening pages. A college student who doesn’t have the greatest of lives, or at least it feels that way according to him. He’s pushed around both literally and figuratively and unfortunately can’t catch a break with the woman he loves. All of this perceived weight is too much for Dylan and he makes choices that will affect him and the story that Brubaker and Phillips hope to tell in the remainder of this series. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it is something that we’ve seen before, just not this well executed. Brubaker makes Dylan seem believable and although the problems may not seem as bad as they are to him, he still came off to me as a sympathetic character that I could both feel for and become annoyed with.
Phillips’ art is strong in this first issue and colorist Elizabeth Breitweister creates the mood to help deliver this extraordinary work. The story and art is dark, but Breitweister is able to use the lights so effectively as to make those darks that much more imposing. The villain of the story is a tough visual sell, but she and Phillips are able to make it work in such a way that a few of the panels actually scared me. The way she also “frames” the action with brighter splotches of color also made those scenes pop and show that her contributions are just as important as the writer and artist’s.
I think Kill or Be Killed will be another Brubaker and Phillips critical hit, but I feel as though Breitweister’s name should be right alongside them and it’s great to see that represented on this issue’s cover. This is a must read and if you’re a fan of any of these creator’s past works, you probably already know that. If you’ve never read something from this team before, jump on board or try any of the series I mention above, all available in collected editions.
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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