Published on August 3rd, 2016 | by Noel Thorne


Kill Or Be Killed #1 Review

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Dylan’s in love with his best friend but she’s dating his flatmate. Not the most upbeat of fellows to start with, Dylan decides to commit suicide by jumping off his apartment building – except he miraculously survives. He quickly discovers though that his second chance at life has a price after a demon appears to him demanding he murder one deserving soul a month – or else he dies. Dylan must choose to Kill or Be Killed!

Fresh from winning the 2016 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series for The Fade-Out a couple weeks ago, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ latest collaboration, Kill or Be Killed, gets off to a cracking start with this first issue. The opening scene, set a few years after the demon first visits Dylan, is instantly gripping and not just because a masked man is shooting up an apartment building with a shotgun.

Dylan’s blunt monologue about the current state of America – big business controlling the government, terrorist attacks every other week, corrupt cops shooting the innocent, and psychos running for President – is immediately compelling and the strong narrative voice effortlessly draws the reader in. Bad people do seem to get away with a lot – Dylan’s just ensuring a few of them don’t. At least that’s how he’s justifying what he’s doing.  


From there, Brubaker and Phillips once again show their master storytelling skills, taking you on a brief tour of Dylan’s life and woes leading up to his life-changing moment and it’s a smooth and enthralling ride. Like their series Fatale which I wasn’t crazy for, the only part I didn’t love in this issue was the supernatural element. It feels like a bit of an awkward fit amidst the realism that preceded it which is the style best suited to Brubaker/Phillips. That’s a personal niggle though, I’m sure plenty of readers won’t mind it.

Sean Phillips’ art is as first-class as ever and less noir-y than usual, without the thick inks that accompany a lot of the Criminal comics, though the material remains as dark as ever. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colours continue to make Brubaker’s comics look gorgeous to behold (she also works on Velvet) and I enjoyed the smoky effect of the demon as well as the snow scenes.

The premise feels a bit thin and one-dimensionally childish but it might be intentionally designed to look that way to surprise the audience somewhere further down the road. And anyway, after delivering the goods so many times before, I completely trust this creative team to produce another fantastic story with this series. Kill or Be Killed #1 is a fine start to a promising series that’ll grab your attention and have you wanting to know what happens next – always a good sign for an opening chapter!


Publisher: Image

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Sean Phillips

Colourist: Elizabeth Breitweiser

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