By Ben Snyder
No matter what, reading the last issue of Kill or Be Killed was always going leave me disappointed because I’ve loved the entire series so much. Seeing it end, although it inevitably had to, was always going to leave a bad taste in my mouth. But Kill or Be Killed #20, disappointed me in a different way all-together. After such a stellar run from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser, the ending felt almost mean-spirited with several instances of the rug being pulled out from underneath the reader for no purposeful reason besides to fill an entire chapter. Or perhaps I’m just jaded, because despite it’s faults Kill or Be Killed #20 is still better than most finales.
Dylan, and by extension Ed Brubaker, has always been prone to rambling. One could argue that the entire series has been Brubaker’s rambling on the evilness of current society through the lens of a mentally unstable vigilante, but chapter 20 feels particularly long-winded. A main contributor to this is lack of focus on any substantial dialogue until the very end conversation between Kira and Lily. Every other conversation Dylan has with someone seems inconsequential, except the conversation between Lily and Dylan regarding Lily’s old partner.
It’s hard to critique most of the characterization in this chapter because a decent chunk of it doesn’t really happen. Almost the entirety of the middle of the story is essentially a "What If?" Story, which felt pretty cheap. After last issue, I was anticipating an entire chapter dealing with the aftermath of Dylan’s actions. The hope of seeing how it or how it didn’t affect society and friends and family excited me. But then Dylan says he was brought back to life, which I felt was corny and cheap because it took away the heroism of him saving Lily’s life. Just as I was settling into this new Dylan reality, Brubaker yanked me out of it again to say that no Dylan was really dead the whole chapter.
I also thought having Kira see the demon at the end was very cliché and I saw it coming as soon as the monologue shifted to her perspective. This would have probably sat better with me if she wasn’t totally disregarded the last couple of chapters. It felt as though Kira was non-existent for almost the entire time Dylan was away in the hospital, and it highlights how she was probably the weakest link the entire series.
Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser end the series on a strong note. The usage of snow obscuring the panels and images is back from last chapter and it is still effective. It works exceptionally well in the opening scene because it makes the gruesome bloody images really pop. Looking back on the whole middle section, I guess I should have known it wasn’t real because Breitweiser and Phillips drew it so ideally. It seems like a dream in contrast with the beginning and end. Its also apparent that Breitweiser and Phillips had a lot of fun designing an alternate costume for Dylan as it looks almost goofy in comparison with the realism of the series so far. Seeing Dylan as a Punisher-like vigilante should have been another red herring.
No matter how Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser ended Kill or Be Kill, I would have been disappointed. I have enjoyed this series so much and never wanted it to end. That being said, Kill or Be Killed #20 definitely wasn’t a perfect finale. The entirety of the chapter could have been condensed to an epilogue for the last chapter. Kill or Be Killed #20 is still a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic series overall. Although it may be one of it’s weaker chapters, it should not take away anything from the stellar series as a whole. Kill or Be Killed has been an achievement on all fronts and should definitely be picked up by anyone who is a noir fan or anyone that enjoys fantastic comics.
Kill or Be Killed #20