Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics
Sometimes I really enjoy dark, messed up stories that leave me feeling a bit yucky when I’m done. Horns is one; The Last Weekend is another. Hell, The Raft falls into this at points too. Kill or Be Killed is turning into one of those stories, where I’m having a good time and feeling guilty for it. This isn’t a story that’ll brighten your day or put a smile on your face.
You know, unless you’re a psychopath or something.
Kill or Be Killed #2 continues where the last issue left off, which is maybe a meaningless sentence. The first book started with present Dylan, a character already warped beyond repair because a devil forced him into a deal: Kill one person a month or die. It then jumped back in time to Dylan’s superhero origin story, which is where it ended and where we begin, though we start with present Dylan voice over. There’s also maybe a bit of a gap somewhere.
Regardless, the character moves forward even if the plot technically doesn’t. Issue #2 is all about Dylan’s first hit and how he rationalizes what he’s doing as okay. It’s not a bad thing if you’re killing bad people.
I suppose the problem is that I’ve seen this before. Dylan isn’t the first character to go killing bad people because he has to. There’ve been vampires and soldiers and scientists and werewolves
probably. It’s not new. I suppose the difference here is the cynical reflection. This issue isn’t just Dylan’s first kill; it’s Dylan thinking about his first kill in relation to where he is now. It’s a snapshot of his devolution.
And the scary thing is, he didn’t seem to devolve all that far.
Still, that’s maybe not enough for me. The first issue mixed things up by non sequitoring into the supernatural, but there are no devils here. I feel like that’s a flaw. Without the devil to provide context, a lot of this issue does just feel like angst. It doesn’t help that Dylan’s mark is too easy to hate (though it does help that Dylan isn’t a reliable narrator and he knows this).
I both like and dislike Dylan’s internal monologue. I think it’s well written, and I think it paints him well as a character. The problem is, I’ve no sympathy or empathy for him. Present Dylan has already resolved his internal conflict over what he’s doing, leaving us with a sociopath. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m down for a good sociopath. We’ve got the makings of one of those; now we just need to put him in some situations where he struggles. If you don’t do that, then all you have is a guy with a gun waxing poetic about how terrible humanity is. That’ll last me an issue or three, but no more.
Thankfully, this is only number two, so there’s one more issue for me to enjoy this mindful indulgence of violence and depression. But if issue four is more of the same, I’ll probably just be bored.