Kill or Be Killed (2016) #17

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Does writer Ed Brubaker actually not see the possibilities he raises with scenes? It’s fascinating. For the second or third time, Brubaker’s started an issue completely invalidating a possibility the previous one raised. There’s an anecdote about a short story being a room in a house, a novel being a house. Maybe Gordon Lish (but probably not). Brubaker keeps staring out the window in Kill’s room without opening it. It’s restrained in all the worst ways.

However, this issue’s the best in a while.

Dylan speaking directly to the reader is… problematic, but at least Brubaker’s not prostrating himself trying to obscure the narration device. It’s a simple issue. Dylan’s going to off the rapey mental hospital orderly, who looks just like the rapey mental hospital orderly from Terminator 2. He’s got to figure out how to kill the guy and whether or not he wants to confirm the guy’s a creep.

In the background, Dylan’s thinking about the copycat vigilante in New York and his roommate going to the cops (though Dylan can’t know the roommate’s going to the cops yet, which he awkwardly comments on). In some ways, Kill or Be Killed feels like Brubaker trying to take what he’s learned from doing pulp-influenced comics for fifteen years and apply them to a more traditional comic book character.

If the series is a big creative swing from Brubaker, it doesn’t work out, which is too bad. Or it’s just a half-assed attempt at a comic in search of a movie or streaming deal, which makes more sense with the art. Artist Sean Phillips feels like he does not have time or care for Kill or Be Killed. Everyone this issue’s got big head issues; looking like Phillips taped the heads onto the bodies and didn’t take the time to get the scaling right.

Seeing as how the comic’s finally a little more sturdy thanks to Brubaker not having to as constantly deceive the reader, who knows how the series would’ve played straight.

But it’s nice for one of the issues not to be lousy. It’s been so, so long since I thought this book had even a minimal chance, and, at least now, it’s not going to finish as unpleasant as it could.

Knock on wood.

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