By Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
Once again, Kill or Be Killed takes home the honor of This Week’s Finest. Things have almost come full circle as Dylan’s story has brought the events from the beginning of the first issue to the end of the thirteenth. The plot is thickening, and there’s still so much more to unravel about our righteous killer and what is pushing down this path…
When this series began, it seemed a demon was causing Dylan to murder evil doers in exchange for an extra month of his own life. Now, he was off his medication at the time but that in itself didn’t seem to disprove that a literal demon was keeping Dylan alive as long as he killed people. For now, Brubaker seems to have soundly buried the demon as a hallucination caused by Dylan’s fragile psyche. The origin of the demon’s image is a whole new mystery yet to be solved, as it appears a handful of times in Dylan’s father’s illustrations decades before it started haunting him as an adult.
There’s not much action in this issue in the conventional sense. Instead, the tension comes as we watch Dylan discover several bombshells about his family. He discovers he had a step-brother, who committed suicide like Dylan had tried to recently. Perhaps more disturbingly, none of this sounds familiar to Dylan. There are gaps in his childhood memories, and they likely hold the key to his demon any why he started on the murderous path in the first place.
Without much in the way of explosions or bloody shootouts, its up to Philips and Breitweiser to make the measured storytelling visually strong. Which they do, there’s never been a bad looking issue of this series and there’s no reason to expect one. Philips uses his delicate line in the main story segments, with a classic, pulpy style for Dylan’s father’s drawings. It manages to bring three different styles under one roof, the classical, the retro, and the modern. Breitweiser’s colors this issue are particularly impressive during the second half, using red, cool green, and dark blue to signify flashback scenes and tie them together.
Visually, this is a strong issue for Philips storytelling, and the script masterfully connects the backstory with what’s conveyed in the panels. Comics can live or die at the hands of the artist’s ability, and Phillips artistic talent is essential here.
While it’s still far away from a resolution (not that we’re in any hurry), I have a working theory after reading this issue. Dylan targeting the Russian mafia, subconscious or not, may be due to his father having a minor run-in with the Russian mob before he committed suicide. Dylan’s fight with them, in a way, could be about avenging his father. Or he could just hate when people like the Russian mafia represent, the worst parts of humanity personified and walking around unchallenged. Brubaker leaves it ambiguous, which only adds to my enjoyment of this series.
Surely not to be the last time, Kill or Be Killed is the deadly vigilante story we need in 2017 that earns This Week’s Finest.