I’m not reading the back matter on Kill or Be Killed for lengthy reasons, but if there’s some explanation why artist Sean Phillips is drawing the twenty-somethings with odd bodies—their heads are too big for their bodies and slightly too round—I may regret not knowing.
This issue opens with another of the illustrated micro-prose, which writer Ed Brubaker established last issue. On one side of the page is black letters on white, lots of white space because the narration’s relatively terse, even when there’s a lot of it, and images on the right from Phillips. The two things move in unison, what protagonist Dylan thinks about while experiencing or witnessing the visuals.
Except, also not, because Brubaker starts the comic where he ends the comic, and Dylan’s not thinking about the same things at the beginning as at the end because it’s all past tense narration. It’s an entirely acceptable, basically successful technical device—the text alongside the images.
I also don’t like it.
Maybe they’ll win me over, but it seems like a cop-out. The minimally successful approach; basically, it’s just taking the prose specials of the eighties and, instead of type-setting them, having your letterer do them. The comic doesn’t credit the letterer (it’s apparently Phillips), so maybe he’s just using Blambot fonts anyway, and it’s still just type-setting.
I’m not sold on it, though they use the same device later in the issue with better effect; maybe because the white space does something with the visuals later, instead of just pushing them to one side.
This issue has Dylan making his first kill—to appease the demon who’ll kill him if he doesn’t kill an evil person. The demon doesn’t appear. Actually, there’s not much follow-up on the first issue's outstanding things—best friend turned roommate’s girlfriend turned illicit lover Kira wants to chat with Dylan about their status. He puts it off because he’s figured out where to get a gun and, thanks to the gun kicking off a madeleine moment, who to kill.
When Dylan does finally get back to Kira, carrying her to bed, it’s where the figures are so obviously distorted. So Phillips has got to be doing it intentionally. Right?
Especially since the rest of the issue, the other people Dylan encounters—his dealer (who’s a hoot), his mom (who’s always in another room), flashback friends, flashback Dad (the comic rushes through Dad having killed himself and the inevitable repercussions on Dylan)—they all look normal. It’s Dylan and Kira who look like strangely molded action figures.
Dylan’s first victim’s crime is particularly terrible, making him a worthy target, but it’s also a narrative gimme. Brubaker takes two big shortcuts—the gun acquisition and the victim selection—so hopefully, those contrivances will somehow pay off.
After the oversized first issue, this one seems a little too quick, especially since we don’t meet anyone else. We hear about them in Dylan’s narration, but only Kira really gets to exist in scenes, and even then, they’re really quick.
But it’s okay. Full disclosure—this read-through isn’t my first attempt with the series, and I’m trying hard not to get derailed. I’m trying to keep an open mind here.
Hence not reading the back matter.