blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Kill or Be Killed (2016) #9


It’s an all-action issue, which works out strangely well. Dylan’s drug dealer, Rex, who has been selling him fake antipsychotics—why Dylan’s not just getting real meds, given he’s got a trust fund, is left unexplained—is used as bait by the Russians. They’re after Dylan for something he did early in the series; they got a lead on him because of a Russian cab driver a couple issues ago.

Now, when that scene happened, the narration told the reader it would be essential, and they would forget (like Dylan would forget). I mean, I guess if you aren’t paying attention. It didn’t happen like a dozen issues ago. It’s like two, maybe three issues. Writer Ed Brubaker should have some confidence in his readers; whether he does or not—Dylan’s recounting is incredibly forced—he’s broadcasting he does not, which is a strange move. But, like, Kill or Be Killed isn’t tricky. If you’re going to worry about your readers having a problem, it’s probably going to be artist Sean Phillip’s weird head sizes, not the straightforward story.


This issue has a Russian tough guy ambushing Dylan, who’s got the demon in him, so he can fight back; drug dealer Rex gets caught in the crossfire, putting Dylan in one desperate situation after another.

It’s too early to say, but I’m wondering if Brubaker will acknowledge Dylan’s no longer anywhere near a reliable narrator. He’s been on shaky ground the entire series—demons and all—only now Brubaker’s revealed he’s got an untreated mental illness thing. Dylan’s sympathetic in a pitying way now; it helps his targets are comic book criminals, so at least he’s not like hurting nice people.

The pacing’s excellent—Phillips’s head sizes aside (it’s got to be intentional, it’s just got to be), he does a wonderful job with the art. Dylan goes speeds around New York and New Jersey, trying to unravel this latest knot, and it looks great. Not the detail—there’s no time for it—but the action. It’s moody in just the right ways.

Obviously, Brubaker’s got a couple swords of Damocles hanging over the book, waiting to drop—we haven’t seen the lady cop he set up as a co-protagonist a few issues ago since her first appearance, and Kira’s been missing since her issue too.

Being entirely disinterested in how the comic turns out helps reading it way too much.

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