Ed Brubaker / Sean Phillips / Elizabeth Breitweiser
When Dylan jumps of a six storey building, his fall is cushioned by laundry wires, a rug and fresh snow. His body is bruised all over, but miraculously he survives. That evening he is visited by a demon. “Second chances don’t come cheap Dylan… It’s time to pay for yours.” The deal is simple: Dylan kills one bad person every month, or he will die after all. At first Dylan believes to be delussional, but when the end of the month is nigh it becomes terribly clear that Dylan has a pact with the Devil indeed.
Brubaker and Phillips are one of those “1 + 1 = 3” teams. They always deliver high quality work. Brubaker tends to use a very prominent narrator who’s telling the story from a third perspective view. His crime stories are about regular dopes who get caught up in something too big to handle. His writing is extremely solid and Sean Philips knows exactly how to bring everything to life. The end result may often show similarities with other series bythe saame team, but it’s always interesting and of high quality.
Kill or be Killed seems to be an attempt to put the bar a few notches higher than usual. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Criminal. It’s dense and brooding (like usual) and very much about one single person. Demon aside, it’s very realistic, with no other supernatural elements. But contrary to Criminal the story is stretched out over multiple issues. It’s not as dense in plot turns as The Fade Out, but rather takes its time to build up tension and dig into Dylan’s brains and social life. The premisse offers lots of opportunities for some interesting surprises. Is Dylan really killing bad guys? What will the killing do to him? How can he keep his activities secret? What victims will he choose? And why is a demon so interested in him killing bad people in the first place?
Visually, Kill or be Killed is a genuine treat. Phillips is working with much greater detail and in a much cleaner style than usual. It’s as if he’s drawing his lines with more precision, applying his shading with more consideration and working on bigger sheets of paper, as to create a higher quality end result thanks to a higher reduction rate. The coloring by Elizabeth Breitweiser is equally stunning. Blue hues and warm grays are dominant and are complemented by brown, orange and red hues. White is used very sparsely. Pages feel as if a yellowish color filter was applied to them. Despite all the blue and gray, they feel warm and lush.
Kill or be Killed gets off to a good start and has the potential of becoming one of the best series Brubaker and Phillips made so far and Breitweiser deserves to be mentioned right along with them.