Comic Recap: Kill or Be Killed #19


No Spoilers Below

We are one issue away from the Kill or Be Killed finale. It has been a ride. In many ways this issue is a culmination of all that has narratively come before. This series has dealt with a number of different metaphorical and literal shackles. Like the cover of the issue, the straight jacket has come off. Socially, morally, kinetically and at varying times literally, an unchained issue of KoBK.

When it comes to literally being chained and detained, Brubaker shows he is excellent at tightening and loosening a situation. Who is in charge of an interrogation, who has something to prove and then undercutting that when it serves him. You think it’s going to be all right and then BAM it goes horribly wrong. It’s happened before for Dylan our main character, getting into binds and taking desperate actions that lead to bloody stumps and crime scenes.

Tonally he’s got the juice but you knew that, Brubaker has one long catalog. What I think is new in this series in particular is the action sensibility. There’s mystery and specific character in his Criminal series. He’s handled noir. It’s just the gunfights here, the geography is so clear and how he weaves them into and out of the flashback architecture in the history of the run, so good.

As we’ve caught up to the flashback narration, an opportunity to give us something divergent here. Not to spoil anything but this issue is divergent from the comfort and bewilderment of starting in medias res or Dylan’s stalking, planning narration. It’s immediate and fresh.

Culmination, pressure, tone and execution, what else is there? Well there’s at least one or two mysteries remaining for the final issue.

Straight up plot like this is also a departure from Brubaker’s wandering portraiture mode. We’ve seen how a strangely, uncomfortably relatable young man deals with a mental health crisis, a flagging graduate education, a complicated relationship’s highs and lows, social decay, a casual drug habit and Russian invaders. With only a small small difference from the reality of the worldview that he is depicting.

It’s that small supernaturalist push that the character encounters all the way back at the first issue, noticeably completely absent from this issue. What he thought he saw as a demon might have gotten him rolling but we’re at full culpability stage now.

Anyway, an excellent book that I look forward to finishing. In anyone else’s hands I wouldn’t have trusted this subject matter as anything other than a poor taste edgelord grab. Brubaker’s crime background and sensibility really softened the anti social elements by giving other, better thrills than transgression. He’s painted something special in the vigilante killer genre. Well, Sean Phillips does the painting. This pairing reconfirming themselves yet again as a winning combo.

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