By Ben Snyder
Kill or Be Killed #14 wraps up the third story arc in tremendous fashion. Most of the issue wouldn’t necessarily seem that exciting as it mostly just goes through Dylan’s plan of destroying the Russian mafia, which is executed perfectly. But the combination of Ed Brubaker’s masterful script and Sean Phillips beautiful art continually prove with each new installment how great this story is.
Once again, besides the ending there really is little going on in this chapter. The way Brubaker simply brushes off the implicit threat of the head of a Russian Mob is a testament to the story he’s crafted so far. Russian Mobs and Special Police forces no longer concern Dylan and shouldn’t concern the reader either. Besides the rare hiccup, Dylan dispatches these threats systematically.
In each issue, there are a couple of precariously places instances of Dylan’s growth. These rare instances from Dylan go miles. In this issue, we are treated to Dylan’s discussion with Mason involving Kira. Mason is not comfortable with Kira coming over as he used to date Kira before she cheated on him with Dylan. This encounter is obviously an interruption into Dylan’s plan, and the way Brubaker wrote it into the script makes it feel like an interruption to the reader as well, like a minor blip on the radar.
However, the way Dylan explodes on Mason shows how far this character has grown. In the beginning of the series Dylan was a timid academic afraid of any and all confrontation. When he began killing, he considered that his separate life and would still maintain his meekish appearance during the day. In this issue, we finally see Dylan’s vigilante aggression cross over into his day-to-day life. It’s rare to see a character so methodical and meek explode like that and it definitely foreshadows his inevitable demise.
Sean Phillips’s pulpy art style is once again perfect for Brubaker’s story. The amount of character and detail is able to get into each individual panel and page is phenomenal. The scar on the Russian Mob boss’s face, the faces of the individual people in the crowd, the paneling on the wall of Dylan’s room- all of this is to show how focused on the details Phillips is in his art and it is for the better of the book as a whole.
Also worth noting is Phillip’s use of lighting in his pictures. The ways in which Phillips uses the sources of light and the character’s shadows is entirely reminiscent of early Pulp-crime films and inspirations. One particular example of this is the way Dylan’s shadow looms over the Mob Boss’s room. Dylan’s shadow encompasses a majority of the panel, but it’s not overbearing- it’s hiding. Also, the way in which all we see in certain panels is due to the light emanating from Dylan’s gun. Without the gun we’d have no vision and it adds to the thriller/noir feeling apparent from Brubaker’s script.
Kill or Be Killed #14 is another fantastic entry in the series. Kill or Be Killed consistently proves to be one of the best written and drawn comics on stands today, but perhaps the biggest compliment I can give the series is that it without either Brubaker or Phillips, the series would not be the same. The way in which the script compliments the art and vice versa is a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship. If you aren’t caught up in the series, I highly recommend you reacquaint yourself because this is one of the best comic series being printed right now.
Kill or Be Killed #14