REVIEW: No turning back on ‘Kill Or Be Killed Vol. 1′
Master noir-suspense-thriller Ed Brubaker and partner-in-crime Sean Phillips never seem to rest their laurels yet again with another dark and psychological tale about the concept of vigilantism in KILL OR BE KILLED Volume 1. This book contains issues #1 to #4, the first story arc that revolves on a reluctant guy who becomes the unlikely […]
Master noir-suspense-thriller Ed Brubaker and partner-in-crime Sean Phillips never seem to rest their laurels yet again with another dark and psychological tale about the concept of vigilantism in KILL OR BE KILLED Volume 1. This book contains issues #1 to #4, the first story arc that revolves on a reluctant guy who becomes the unlikely vigilante due to the pact with the dark side. Indeed, similar to their collaborative acclaimed work, FATALE, Ed and Sean add the supernatural to the mix in the gray area of vigilantism for the main character here starts with the killing on a “deserved” one and later, explores his backstory on how he turned out to be as such. Again, like virtually of Ed’s magnum opuses, this character resonates with many of us out there, but he has made a choice he will perhaps regret sooner or later. The fun part here is the creative team has included some engaging backgrounds of the secondary characters to explain the plot twists and some characterizations, including the flame of the protagonist. As always, Ed’s dialogues are sophisticated and loaded with some of the finest noir lines yet to date.
Sean Phillips’s art is further enhanced by the colors deliver by Elizabeth Breitweiser for the atmospheric scenes in many panels and pages elevate more the already the superior script of Brubaker. Furthermore, Sean’s facial portrayals and their emotional deliveries are almost realistic because the characters in this book are neither members of the mobster nor superheroes, but ordinary Joe’s and Jane’s who are thrust unwittingly to the world of vigilantism. Even the methods of killing are presented as grounded as possible, especially how the main character performed his first kill. Naturally, the most creative illustrations here are the representations of evil themselves, which are basically a feat itself for Sean’s most challenging yet was the Cthulhu in FATALE. The action moments are akin to a well-choreographed scene in a movie, making the artist’s sequential paneling highly accessible even to new readers around.
As usual, this trade paperback edition focuses more on the story itself, thus the exclusion of the interesting essays only featured in the individual issues. Second, this is a very mature work of art, so expect some rather disturbing, if not uncomfortable, contents like you already see, hear and list in mainstream media nowadays, in addition of profanities around. And, the inclusion of an infamous supernatural may upset some rather conservative and myopic readers around. Also, I knew Sean’s women are gorgeous, but his woman here is strikingly similar to many of his other versions in other works.
Nevertheless, Kill Or Be Killed‘s first volume of the Ed Brubaker-Sean Phillips take on vigilantism is engaging and thought-provoking on the motives and circumstances towards as such. The characters are equally interesting. The plot is consistently Brubaker-esque, moving beyond the Chandler-esque noir tropes. And, Sean’s overall artistry remains darkly great, as usual.