Kill or Be Killed (2016) #7

Kbk7

Wait, what just happened?

Writer Ed Brubaker just took Kill or Be Killed on a seemingly unplanned detour, bringing back Kira—the friend who started dating Dylan’s roommate but then started sleeping with Dylan (in the first arc)—and entirely redefining the character.

Not to mention giving her a character.

Also, she’s got blue hair now. And Sean Phillips’s art problems are gone. A literal wave washed over the comic, left Kira’s hair blue, and carried away all the cruft. At least for this issue.

The issue’s split between Kira’s narration and her therapy session. In both, we learn a lot more about her life, including she might not have been entirely honest with Dylan—fingers crossed. Until this issue, her one backstory detail was her single mom was a swinger who’d have orgies, and Kira would watch as a kid, which Dylan liked because he’s a fucking creeper.

Nothing in this issue invalidates that story, though nothing confirms it, and the timeline doesn’t work out, meaning—as long as it’s just not a leave-out—Kira lied to Dylan about herself, making the character so much more interesting.

The issue starts with Phillips illustrating photographs from a scrapbook Kira’s mom had. The mom’s sick. Kira’s in therapy talking about it, the scrapbook photos run concurrent to the session, then to the rest of the issue. There’s narrative ambition. In this utterly unambitious comic, there’s finally ambition.

Phillips does a great job with the photographs; so glad they didn’t do fumetti, like a couple issues ago with a newspaper photo. The therapy session suggests Kira needs a new therapist and Brubaker wrote the dialogue based on the ELIZA computer therapist program from the 1960s. Not awesome dialogue—not to mention if you’re going to come for the king (of Aunt May’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” issue), you best not miss—but it works out thanks to Kira’s narration.

And Phillips holding the art together throughout.

I don’t know if there’s a way for Brubaker to right the ship, but this issue knocks the book onto a much better course (though Brubaker’s famous for his inspired, done-in-one fill-in issues). There’s a big reveal at the end, too, coming after a fantastic awkward solo scene for Kira.

The dialogue is much better here too. It’s not just teen soap opera one-liners meant to fill pages; Kira has conversations with her step-sister and mother. I refuse to let myself be too hopeful for this book but damned if Brubaker doesn’t still have it.

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