Review: Killadelphia #4
Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander’s Killadelphia has been setting its sights high since the very first issue. It established conflicting racial politics and creates a history that dates back to early independent America. A time when the Founding Fathers still roamed the land. One of them turns out to be a vampire looking to start a revolution of his own in present times. A vampire revolution. Killadelphia #4 is where that revolution starts, where we hear the first shot of the vampire uprising. It’s loud enough to become the new ‘shot heard around the world.’
Father and son James and Jim Sangster along with chief medical examiner Jose Padilla have stumbled across several big pieces of the larger puzzle, namely that President John Adams is patient zero of the vampire virus and that some of Philadelphia’s poorer neighborhoods have become his personal vampiric breeding grounds. Our merry group of novice vampire hunters is worried about the conquest-level amounts of bloodsuckers that are awaiting their orders, but they still don’t know when it’s all going to go down. This fourth issue is when everything starts.
Barnes’ script and Shawn Alexander’s art never waste an opportunity to comment on the fact that most of Adams’ vampire army is composed of black people. This is interesting because Adams is widely regarded as one of the few Founding Father to have not owned slaves. The actual facts behind this are somewhat muddy as the President did hire white and free black servants but also rented out slaves from slave owners, paying a service fee for their employment.
On top of that, Adams tolerated slavery and was very much a man of his time, meaning he might not hold up in a court of public opinion in today’s political climate (or perhaps he would’ve, given the state of things). This might say something about the drive behind his vampire revolution, especially in terms of how traditional or nuanced his perceived villainy will end up being.
It doesn’t seem like Barnes and Shawn Alexander are looking to frame Adams as a mere ‘white bad guy’ type of character for Killadelphia. The next two issues should reveal a lot more about the agendas pushed forward by the second President of the United States. The race dynamic between the white leader and the black vampires speaks volumes, but just exactly what it’s truly meant to represent is still up for debate.
I will say, while I am completely invested in the series and have loved how dense each entry has been, I did feel the revolution started a bit early. I could’ve done with two more issues of world building and perhaps more exploration of the vampires themselves. Issue #4 takes a plunge into big story developments and, while exciting, it does feel a bit rushed.
Shawn Alexander’s art continues to impress. It really digs into the grittiness of the setting, but it also plays with realism in a way that keeps the more fantastical elements of the story grounded. It heightens the horror and continues to produce some nasty-looking vampires.
Luis NCT’s colors, on the other hand, do a fantastic job of helping the art maintain a balance between its fantasy and its realism. They have a way of accentuating the more visceral sequences while also setting the tone for the moments that need an additional dose of darkness to really be effective. Visually, this comic is a well-oiled machine. The script wraps itself around this beautifully.
Killadelphia #4 speeds things up quite a bit—perhaps a bit too quickly—but the quality of the storytelling hasn’t dipped not one bit. There are traces of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend here, and even a bit of Candyman in terms of ambiance. I’m eager to see what else gets thrown in the ring, because we got a vampire revolution firing up and it looks like it’s about to get real bloody.
Story: Rodney Barnes Art: Jason Shawn Alexander Colors: Luis NCT
Story: 8.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy, and then make sure it’s in your pull list
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review