Kill or Be Killed (2016) #13

Kbk13

This issue opens with more of writer Ed Brubaker’s “is it condescending or doesn’t he know how to do this” narration for protagonist Dylan. We’re almost caught up to the first issue’s framing device (the whole comic’s in past tense), but there’s one more story to tell first.

And… there’s actually a story to tell?

Brubaker’s been most successful with Kill or Be Killed when doing an issue unlike any others—introducing new characters (who don’t come back) or focusing on a supporting character (who’s never near as important again despite being the regular co-star). So this issue actually does all right just being a Kill or Be Killed. Dylan and Kira go out to his mom’s house to return her car, and he looks through Dad’s old art collection, and Mom tells him some family history he’d repressed or whatever.

There’s actually… searching, earnest narration. There’s bad narration, there’s gatekeeping (better Google Tristan Shandy if you want to be in the real know), and the cliffhanger’s a mess, but when Dylan’s learned something about his Dad, it’s a good sequence. It’s a shock.

And not a surprise Brubaker can’t maintain it. He didn’t start the issue so well; why finish it on a high point?

It’s such a good plot point. One has to wonder why we’re getting it thirteen issues into the series. Dylan’s lack of a relationship with his father—who committed suicide when Dylan was ten—has always been on a far back burner. So far back, it didn’t seem relevant for issues, then Brubaker revealed the demon in Dad’s art, but now Dylan’s decided the demon haunted Dad too.

Or something. The comic doesn’t seem to acknowledge Dylan not remembering his house growing up might also mean he doesn’t remember four specific paintings of his father’s he wasn’t supposed to be looking at anyway.

His mom gets more page time than ever before, but still very little to do but drop a plot revelation on Dylan. There’s a weird standoffishness from Dylan towards her, which might be interesting if explored, but I’ve got no hopes or expectations for Kill or Be Killed. Brubaker’s highlights are way too inconsistent; this issue’s a perfect example. Usual blah, okay, surprisingly good, usual blah minus.

Sean Phillips’s art is more of the rushed, not great variety. He doesn’t have the big head problem, but he still seems like he’s pasting features onto faces. Kira especially.

So, problematic as ever, but also the most successful the concept’s ever been. Shame an editor didn’t tell Brubaker not to bury such a big lede thirteen issues in.

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