By Ben Snyder
Although, I have been an avid fan of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Kill or Be Killed so far, there hasn’t quite been an issue that left me saying “what?” until this chapter. Kill or Be Killed #19 obviously signals the eventual series ending with a final page that will leave readers feeling and saying similarly, but it shouldn’t detract or distract from a thoroughly intense albeit dialogue heavy chapter. If there’s one complaint to Ed Brubaker’s style is that he can be a bit too dialogue-heavy and that is very prevalent in this chapter. Despite this, I think teamed up with Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser, this complaint is soothed a bit, as each cog works together harmoniously to produce another solid issue of Kill or Be Killed.
As mentioned prior, the main critique of most of Ed Brubaker’s work is that he is vigorously dialogue heavy. I think that is what made this series as well as his other noir-influenced tales so successful. These stories rely on the more meta-narration of Dylan to guide it through and give it direction, which suites Brubaker’s style to a T. In any other book, a two and a half page monologue about how every battle that has been waged has been between the poor and the rich would have seemed trite, but in Kill or Be Killed it feels like a natural progression of Dylan’s thoughts; after all, he is mentally unstable and in a mental institution.
The standout to this chapter has to be Dylan’s talk with Detective Lily Sharpe. From her introduction, it seemed as though she had a respect for him while also acknowledging how much of a detriment to society he had the potential of being, and it was always tantalizing to me to see how they would react face to face. The encounter did not disappoint. I found it odd yet purposeful how similarly she looked to Kira, subtly hinting at a forbidden romance.
I am wondering what the purpose of Lily’s visit was though. Was she content with simply questioning Dylan, or did she want to convict him? Did she maybe even want to join him? It all depends on how you interpret her leaving him uncuffed. Seeing Dylan dispatch enemies without hesitation certainly showed how deep he dived into the homicidal justice he’s determined to enact. Having Detective Lily Sharpe’s squeamishness worked really well in counter playing that. It was also nice seeing Dylan be a bad ass for once. For a while he was written as pathetic or insane so having him be justifiably cool for once was a nice change of pace.
I won’t hesitate to say that Sean Phillip’s art has taken a step back since we’ve meandered away from the more supernatural elements as I found his depictions of demons and devils to be wholly unique and brilliant. This shouldn’t detract from how consistently stellar he has been in evoking that classic film-noir style though. With heavy reliance on shadows and precipitation obscuring the panels, Phillips has only strengthened his case for one of the best artists around right now.
Speaking of precipitation, the opening couple of pages are simply breathtaking. The way the snow infiltrates every panel and obscures the figures is a beautiful interpretation of the classic noir style. It’s one of my favorite sequences in a very long time.
I’ve loved Kill or Be Killed for a majority of it’s run and it brings me a sadness to know it is ending soon. However, I am pleased to report it seems to be ending on a satisfying note so far producing the writing and artistic quality it has maintained since it’s inception. A lot of this payoff will have to deal with the ending (which is shocking to say the least), but readers should have confidence and high hopes. Brubaker and Phillips haven’t let us down so far.
Kill or Be Killed #19