Book Report: Kill or Be Killed

Title: Kill or Be Killed, Vol. 1 – 4
Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Year: 2016 – 2018

Dylan is a depressed, 28-year-old grad student who is at his end.

killorbekilledHe is in love with his best friend, Kira. His best friend is dating his roommate, Mason. When Mason is out of town Kira and Dylan have sex. It taps into Dylan’s strong feelings for his friend but his world is crushed when he overhears Kira and Mason discussing how pathetic he is. This conversation sends Dylan deeper into his depression and he decides to kill himself by jumping off of the building. Dylan jumps but survives. Dylan’s survival is where the story truly begins as he is visited by a demon who tells Dylan that he owes him. The only way to repay the demon was to kill an evil person to be granted another month to live.

In the hands of a less talented creative team, Kill or Be Killed would be a straightforward story about a reluctant vigilante. What the team of Brubaker and Phillips gives us is a story that delves into pulp, crime, detective fiction, action, and mental health. There are turns in this series that have you asking why something is even important only to be brought back in an explosive way. What makes the story even more compelling is that Brubaker walks the tightrope and lets the reader see that Dylan isn’t a hero yet draws them into cheering on his success.

The further Dylan is drawn into his role as a vigilante he becomes more self-assured. Yet his decisions bring him the sights of people who want him dead and brought to justice. As he goes through this new life he searches for answers in his past. These answers bring the existence of the demon into doubt.

What makes this story so effective is that much like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown that each extra detail we are told reveals another layer. To add more to that Dylan is the narrator and tells the story in a disjointed almost Tarantino-esque fashion that by the end proves to be unreliable.

Kill or Be Killed is Taxi Driver meets Dexter meets Breaking Bad. It is a story about how a person sees the world and makes a decision on how they will exist in it. The same way that Travis Bickle, Walter White, and Dexter Morgan have their own worldviews, so does Dylan. He makes bad decisions for what he deems are good reasons. If you couldn’t tell I can’t recommend this series anymore, it’s great and you won’t regret it.

killdemon

Highlight: As a result of his behavior Dylan is put in a mental institution. He doesn’t allow this to stop his work. It is at this point where we see what drives Dylan. Is it the demon? Or is he driven by his own desires?

Grade: 45villains
4.5 (out of 5) villains

Book Report: Hang Time: Days and Dreams With Michael Jordan

Title: Hang Time: Days and Dreams with Michael Jordan
Author: Bob Greene
Year: 1992

I have a problem.

hangtimecover

Every time I see a library book sale I fall in love. The libraries could easily donate the books once the sale is over, but the librarians want the books to go to someone who wants them. So deals for $5 hardcovers morph into $5 to fill a bag with books. They’re so desperate to get rid of books that they promise they’ll look the other way if the bag rips. So now there was enough room for one more book and then I saw Hang Time: Days and Dreams With Michael Jordan by Bob Greene. The back cover promised unique insights into Jordan, and I was sold. The book was practically free so the decision was made as I stuffed it into the bag.

Full disclosure: I’m not a Michael Jordan fan. He’s a great player, and most likely the greatest ever, but I can’t stand the mythologizing. It was happening in real time and has only grown worse over time. I figured I would be getting real-time insights of Jordan as everything was happening. Instead, there were milquetoast quotes, and a near deifying of Jordan by Greene, a non-sports writer.

Greene had once in a lifetime access to Michael Jordan. He followed the Bulls closely during their first two championship seasons (1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons). He was there for the release of Sam Smith’s The Jordan Rules (which revealed the conflicts of the 1990-91 Bulls), he was even there for the uncovering of Jordan’s gambling habits. Greene sat with Jordan for hours over the two seasons, and he gave us less than breadcrumbs. As a lifelong skeptic, I can see how this book received a Jordan seal of approval and provided a side that counters that of Smith’s. The book became a national bestseller and a friendship was born.

While the book is full of fluff there are interesting tidbits. We see Jordan not only as a megastar but how he is cut off from the world. During the second championship, he doesn’t trust any of his teammates, his thoughts on then-NBA commissioner David Stern handling his gambling, and that he wanted to win the second title for himself. Jordan received more criticism than he was used to, and he wanted to take it out on everyone. It was here that we saw his bitterness seep through his well-manicured facade. Why didn’t Greene delve further into that? My only response is:

Highlight: Bob Greene has a discussion with Jordan and decides it’s time to bond over Elvis, but Jordan doesn’t care. Greene stresses that it’s important, but Jordan cares less. It’s here that Greene learns “Elvis was a hero to most, but he doesn’t mean shit to (Michael Jordan).” (c) Chuck D. It was completely patronizing, and MJ’s response was perfect.

Grade: 2villain
2 (out 5) villains