Kill or Be Killed #2

by Aaron Reese on September 22, 2016

Kill or Be Killed #2

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser

Published by Image Comics


Kill or Be Killed follows around Dylan, a soon-to-be cold-blooded killer with a baby face who is miraculously saved from a suicide attempt. He soon learns that he was saved by a demon who now controls his free will. At least Dylan thinks that’s what’s going on. Writer Ed Brubaker shows us that Dylan is a slightly unreliable narrator, casting just enough doubt on his memory, sobriety, and sanity to make us wonder if a demon is truly manipulating his actions. In one moment of heightened anxiety, Dylan fails to recall an important piece of information, even admitting that he may be lying to himself.


Dylan’s backstory is not terribly original. Even though he had a promising youth, he failed to achieve his potential. He is (of course) in love with his best friend, who is dating his roommate (of course). He complains about the world, corruption, greedy politicians, blind civilians and any number of things that a generic young man might complain about. This type of character dates back to the very first Victorian novels and after 150 years of stories filled with angsty losers, we hardly need another. However, Brubaker’s writing helps steer the reader away from the boredom that usually results from reading about downtrodden whiners.


The demon who saved Dylan demands that he kill one person a month or he will be killed, hence the title. Thus far, Brubaker has given no motivation for the Demon’s actions. It just wants folks dead and seems to think Dylan is the right man for the job.


The first issue revealed that Dylan acquiesced to the demon’s ultimatum. He agrees to kill people in exchange for his life. The first scene shows us that at some point Dylan becomes an accomplished murderer capable of taking out multiple targets in one attack. The rest of the series is told in flashback. In issue two, Dylan tells us about his first murder and the events leading up to it.


I’m a sucker for this type of storytelling. I like to see how things are done. If I’m reading about a heist, I want to know everything about the con, the safe being cracked, the getaway car, the fake IDs and all that. If someone plans to get away with murder, I want to see them choose a murder weapon, stalk their target and develop a plan. Kill or Be Killed succeeds here. Brubaker lets us listen to Dylan’s thoughts as he acquires the means and the will to accomplish the task. The most interesting moments come in flashbacks within flashbacks, as Dylan’s epiphones about how to carry out a murder erupt from childhood memories.


If Brubaker can make his characters transcend the well-worn archetypes they started as, this supernatural crime story could turn this series into something special.


Our Score:


A Look Inside