The stunning noir series Kill Or Be Killed closes out a chapter, taking us into rockier terrain. Now that Dylan has a firm grasp on one aspect of his life, and the satisfaction of a job well done, he loses his grip on another.
***SPOILERS LIE AHEAD***
We’ve done so much growing along with Dylan in these fourteen issues. Every minor accomplishment he achieves is a major victory for him and the reader. It’s almost impossible to feel satisfaction when he stands up to his asshole roommate.
You know how good he feels when he closes that door in Mason’s face because you’ve felt it before in your own life during some small victory of your own.
Our connection to Dylan also means the blows that he takes are that much more devastating. To think, after all the mental obstacles he overcame, his sanity may still be in question is a bombshell when it hits.
Ed Brubaker is at the height of his powers, which is saying a lot given his accomplishments. It’s amazing how much time we spend in Dylan’s head without him ever getting stale or predictable.
The visual style is picturesque in the best possible way. New York is a living, breathing part of every page. On every panel, you can hear cars beeping and people shuffling.
Sean Phillips draws people as well as he does landscapes. Every character model and expression tells a story that doesn’t even require Brubaker’s words. These aren’t Hollywood comic book models either, they are real people with real wear to them.
Elizabeth Breitweiser does exceptional work with even a dirtier, grittier pallet of color. The city only provides so many vibrant colors in a nighttime landscape and drenched in murder.
Dylan’s eye color gets darker the closer he gets to standing up to Mason. They start out green, get closer to brown, then damn near black by the time he speaks his mind. These little details make Kill Or Be Killed a splendid repeat read.
The black background behind Dylan as he confronts the Russian mob boss one-on-one sends shivers down your spine. This entire scene is built upon how easy it was, you can’t help but wait for it all to fall apart. The panels of Dylan with nothing but darkness behind him both raise the suspense and show how stone-cold of a master killer he’s become.
All the comic book tricks are on full, tasteful display in Kill Or Be Killed. The lettering of Kira’s dialogue slowly wiping away as Dylan drifts out of listening to her. That devastating final page reveal. It’s a glorious example of top-tier comic book creation and story telling.
Kill Or Be Killed has some monumental staying power. It’s now been consistently stunning and dynamic for fourteen issues. The killer creative team shows no signs of stopping as we follow Dylan into another dark place.
Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser clearly weren’t satisfied with their handful of Eisner nominations. If they don’t clean up on awards next year, it’ll be a real shame. Every comic book fan should be reading this series.