Review: Kill or Be Killed #11

Killed or Be Killed #11 kicks off with a tantalizing flash-forward of our protagonist Dylan as a millennial Charles Bronson in the Death Wish sequels in a brutal action sequence that the series opened up with. However, this is just a tease from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser, and the comic settles down to poke around Dylan’s mental state and hint at the tiniest slivers of redemption before taking a sharp, violent left turn in its final scenes. This lull, then storm plot structure makes for entertaining reading as Brubaker and Phillips make Dylan a likable young man trying to get his friend Kira back, pass grad school, and find some semblance of normal in his life until he decides to kill again.

Kill or Be Killed #11 definitely looks at the “psychological” part in psychological thriller, and there’s an extended scene where Dylan half lies and half tells the truth to his therapist, who reprimands him for going off his meds. Breitweiser’s colors sink to a nice medium palette, and Phillips draws Dylan’s body language as moving away from his therapist instead of listening to what he has to say. It’s nice to see Dylan working on his mental health, but his lack of engagement with his therapist and lies to him makes it seem like he’s just trying to tick off a box on a list and return to “normal” without dealing with the consequences of his murders. Dylan isn’t contrite at all; he just wants to avoid the consequences of his actions, which is why it’s hilarious that he wears a Richard Nixon mask to his friend Kira’s Halloween party towards the end of the issue.

Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser continue to make the reality of the demon that supposedly saved Dylan’s life and forces him to kill fairly ambiguous with a couple pages done in pulpy, painted art style showing that his father’s artwork of the creature. Nonetheless, like clock work, Dylan gets deathly ill two months after he killed a Russian mob member and his drug dealer, and the cause isn’t just undercooked falafel. But he doesn’t immediately go into vigilante mode until he hears a young man in a Russian accent asking for his friend Kira and her “boyfriend” Dylan at a coffee shop, and the demon never speaks to him in Kill or Be Killed #11. The ending of the issue started to really make me question the “devil made me do it” motivation for Dylan’s actions and returns to the desperate final issues of the second arc where Dylan was just out to save his own ass through violent, yet sloppy means. Just when readers start to like Dylan more, he goes off and murders someone.

Ed Brubaker continues to treat Dylan’s mental health with empathy without justifying his actions in the slightest. Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser kick in a little romance and add more light to their usual shadowy art when Dylan interacts with Kira, and the story shifts gears from Death Wish meets Zodiac to a less insufferable early Zach Braff film with two young people rekindling a spark in Greenwich Village after dealing with a host of relationship issues. That tone is short lived when Dylan gets sick, and the art becomes more painterly and apocalyptic. There’s a tension between wanting Dylan to feel better, not wanting him to kill again , and a third, liberating door that it’s an imbalance in brain chemistry telling him this. It’s a moral muddle, and Dylan’s own internal struggle is more riveting and infinitely more relatable than the Russian gangsters on his tail.

After an insanely compelling and action master class of a cold open, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser so straight slice of life for most of Kill or Be Killed #11 examining Dylan’s post-vigilante motivation and relationship with Kira. But cue the last few pages, and the comic is back to be one hell of (a heavy on the anti) an antihero with a Richard Nixon mask starring thrill ride. (Fingers crossed that he runs into someone in a Hunter S. Thompson outfit at next issue’s costume party.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story: 8.0  Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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