Kill or be Killed
Issue #1 | $3.99 | 44pgs
Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
“Now I just had to find someone who deserved to die and kill them… How hard could that be?”
Marvel Comics gave us a Punisher/Dr. Strange mash-up during last year’s Secret Wars, Ed Brubaker is back with his new series that presents his own take on mashing up vigilante justice with the supernatural and the result is…pretty decent.
It is not hard to know what to make of Kill or be Killed because the creators are playing in their usual stomping grounds of crime fiction (Criminal) and even the supernatural (Fatale), the biggest surprise is how straight forward Brubaker and his longtime collaborator Sean Phillips play things. Dylan is a man possessed – literally AND figuratively. Having lost the will to live due to a bout of depression brought on by the loss of his best girlfriend to his roommate, Dylan decides to commit suicide. And much like several other areas of his life, this does not go as planned.
It is no spoiler to say that Dylan survives his attempted suicide, it is the details surrounding his survival and the strange pact that Dylan is forced kicking, screaming, and pistol whipped into where the real story begins. Kill or be Killed slowly builds towards its climax by walking through VERY familiar territory in stories of this nature. The reader has to dredge through the hard luck experiences of the protagonist which is only kept interesting by the solid visuals of Phillips. The biggest drawback here being that if you are familiar with Phillips style then be prepared for more of the same. It is a proven formula but it is nothing longtime followers of this team’s work has not seen before.
Brubaker does manage to splice some of the best parts of the thriller, vigilante anti-hero, and supernatural genres with the tried and true “down on his luck everyman” trope best embodied by Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. It makes for an intriguing mix due to the strength of the premise: Dylan will be allowed to live one more month for every person he kills. The further exploration of this in the hands of master craftsmen Brubaker and Phillips is more of the draw to the series than anything presented in the first issue.
These surface level similarities are intentional with only time being able to tell how far astray the creative team will deviate from these tropes. I have every faith that Brubaker and Phillips will subvert our expectations of those genres, I am just not certain how long I would be willing to wait for that to occur. Given a few months to get more issues out, this first issue will most likely read better once the inevitable trade collection is published. I would recommend copping the first issue and maybe the second to see if the series picks up the pace a bit now that the origin of this new character has been laid out, but then trade waiting the subsequent issues.
For $3.99 this issue is a good value since Brubaker and Phillips have a guest provide a back matter essay, in this issue Charles Bronson’s Death Wish movie is the subject being discussed. Give the first couple of issues a shot, the creative team has proven track record of delivering the goods, I just can’t make a long-term recommendation of this series based on this first issue alone.