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.
He 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.
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?
4.5 (out of 5) villains