Kill or Be Killed (2016) #15

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But, wait, what if Dylan’s a ghost and he’s been dead the whole time?

Okay, writer Ed Brubaker doesn’t end the issue on that reveal, but he ends it on one much more similar to it than I’d have thought. It’s definitely an intriguing cliffhanger, though Brubaker’s either going to do something interesting with it, and the first fourteen issues of the comic will be—at best—a partial waste of time (unless we’re looking for clues he’s a ghost), or it’s just a way to gin up an unlikely cliffhanger, and it’s not going to be at all significant.

Honestly, I’m leaning toward the latter. I’ve no faith in Brubaker to turn Kill or Be Killed around. And not just because he makes a crack about the comic not being “epistolary,” meaning Dylan’s first-person narration isn’t to a psychiatrist, but instead a direct address to the reader. You know, the suckers who’ve been buying the comic in the first place.

And also not just because Brubaker brags about a film deal in the back matter. I’ve been avoiding the back matter in the comic for ages; I was just skimming, and it jumped out. Also jumping out is Dylan’s complaint things have gotten so bad in the world the Nazis are back when Kill or Be Killed’s colorist is… well, let’s just say the phone call’s coming from inside the house. Not to mention Brubaker sort of blew off the politics earlier in the series, and now Dylan’s telling us how the world’s so changed only he should’ve been telling us as it changed. Or, more accurately, revealed itself.

Anyway. None of those troubling elements are the main one I don’t trust Brubaker to write the book out of its hole. It just doesn’t have anywhere to go. Dylan might somehow end up vaguely sympathetic but pitiable. It’ll also raise some ableism questions. But the writing on the other characters? The other characters’ writing will always be bad no matter what happens with Dylan.

And Sean Phillips’s art is clearly never going to get over its problems. It’s a little better this issue… except when it’s not. For whatever reason, Phillips just can’t draw regular people in the modern-day. Or he can’t draw them in this comic.

There’s still a lot of Kill or Be Killed to go; this issue kicks off the last arc with Dylan in a mental hospital, the demon having hounded him into a public enough outburst he got put on a psychiatric hold.

It’s an exhausting comic and for no good reason.

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