This honestly might be one of my favorite books coming out - Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips put out a book that forces you to think while reading, makes the reader question everything they're consuming from this story, evokes emotions you didn't know you'd need, and generally nourishes an uncomfortable tone -- like when you know you have to chastise someone at work but just don't want to arrive at that point -- that makes this narrative seem so present.
For those of you just joining the story, the protagonist Dylan has been driven to murder by a demon that essentially told him to take a life or have his own taken. It's such a bonkers premise, especially when it's overlaid with this manic energy from Dylan, who is suicidal over how shitty his life is, and how his unrequited love (Kira) is torturing him with a relationship she maintains with his roommate. This is, pretty much, Dylan's low point.
However, Dylan's most recent (and first) victim turned out to be the key to a child pornography ring, which hit the news and caused him to feel victorious; he killed a bad person, which in turn led to the apprehension of some more horrible people. Riding that high, in addition to the steamy affair he's having with Kira, is driving him to find another domino to tip.
Brubaker does an exemplary job of describing how the events of TV and movies function in the real world, and using Dylan's youthful voice to relay those findings makes things seem so much more digestible to the reading audience. He explains how it's so hard to come across an act of cruelty at random, how having a double life can be such a pain in the ass, and how to cover up his strange behavior with an improvised breakdown. God, Brubaker is so damn good in this book it's mind-boggling.
And speaking of being so damn good, Sean Phillips is CRUSHING IT here. His work is alternatingly haunting and intimate. It's gritty, real world violence and reflective pondering. His expressions are priceless, with Dylan himself running the full gamut of what a human can feel over the course of a single issue. I think he outdoes himself with Kira, though. As a reader, I understood the temptation that Dylan felt, the precious connection, between himself and Kira. The allure of her, how she carries herself, is just another addiction for him.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on how incredible Elizabeth Breitweiser's colors are, especially in this issue. The tone she evokes, most notably the scene outside the strip club after hours, is panic and adrenaline and surprise all rolled into one. She weaves a mood through her colors -- both her character work and her backgrounds -- that conveys the truly bizarre tale that's unfolding.
Also? The last page sent chills down my spine. This book is a triumph.
Kill or Be Killed is a hard book to read, what with its ultra-violent ideas, the cynicism its protagonist wields, and all the vices in between. It's a book that thrives once it gets its hooks in you, and if you are willing to let yourself be lost in the grimy nature of the book you will find one of the best comics on the market today.
10 out of 10 Murder Fantasies