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Review: Sara



A team of female Russian snipers beat back the Nazi invaders on the WW2 Eastern Front.

Writer: Garth Ennis (Punisher, Preacher, The Boys)
Artist: Steve Epting (Captain America, Velvet)
Color Artist: Elizabeth Breitweiser (Batman, Outcast, Kill or Be Killed)
Letterer: Rob Steen (Punisher, Nick Fury)

Order yours now https://tkopresents.com/

Review: Batman #53

The jury in the Mr. Freeze trial is hopelessly deadlocked because one man won’t vote guilty-and that man is Bruce Wayne. Freeze’s defense is that Batman used excessive force, making his arrest illegal, and Bruce is the one man who actually knows for sure what went down between Batman and his ice-cold nemesis. And if Bruce is right, that means everything he’s devoted himself to as the Caped Crusader is a lie; he is hurting more than helping. With Dick Grayson putting the Batsuit back on to keep Gotham City safe while Bruce is sequestered, could this be the out Bruce needs to discard the cape and cowl forever?

There is something that few will discuss that have been on a jury, the fact you get to play god with someone’s life. Whether it’s letting them walk free, be behind bars for a time period, or decide on taking their life through the death penalty, as a juror, you have to make a decision that will make or break the future of the accused. I’ve sat on a jury for a murder trial, I was the foreman, and I can’t deny this concept crossed my mind on a few occasions during the few weeks of my experience.

Writer Tom King takes this head on but expands it to Batman as a whole who we are reminded is just a man, a fallible man. He’s not the god-like being that so many in Gotham has made him out to be since he has saved so many of their lives. And this case is made through the words of Bruce Wayne. Batman #53 is the conclusion of the story arc focusing on the arrest of Mr. Freeze and whether Batman made a mistake in doing so. But, there’s a bigger picture. It’s Bruce Wayne coming to grips with Batman, what he means in his life, and the recent event of being left at the altar. This is the closest we’ve gotten Bruce to confess to his reality in a while and it’s a heartbreaking one that’s worthy of a confession to a Priest. King has been deconstructing Wayne and Batman and by issue’s end we’re at square one going back to basics.

King is helped by artist Lee Weeks and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser whose art gives us an arc that feels like a classic play in look. Taking place in the jury room, everyone discusses the case and their thoughts with panels focused on each character and their every movement. It’s the details here that stand out, like a cross around the neck. The coloring is limited with a style that reminds me of some of the classic Batman stories like “The Long Halloween.” Lettering by Clayton Cowles emphasizes keywords as if noting to the actor were to deliver the emotional punch.

This entire arc feels like a play with actors taking on roles and delivering an emotional punch. It’s a story that helps define Batman not as a god who is always right, but as a man who makes mistakes. It’s a realization of reality by Bruce. This is one hell of an arc and a story that I can go back to over and over to pick out the tiny details. A fantastic ending that launches both Batman and Bruce Wayne in a new direction and a dose of reality.

Story: Tom King Art: Lee Weeks
Color: Elizabeth Breitweiser Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Batman #51

After last month’s polarizing (not really a) wedding issue, writer Tom King reunites with his Batman/Elmer Fudd collaborator Lee Weeks and atmospheric colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser for a courtroom drama with a bit of twist ending in Batman #51. Bruce Wayne chooses to make a mockery of the legal system over awkwardly revealing his secret identity and sits on a jury where Mr. Freeze is being tried for the murder of three women, and, of course, was apprehended by Batman. It’s a fairly thought provoking look at how Batman fits into the larger legal system of Gotham, and at times, may do more harm than good. And far from being a mere procedural, King and Weeks use the contradiction of Bruce Wayne sitting on a jury in a trial connected to the actions of his alter ego (Or real personality.) to probe into the anger and guilt buried in Bruce/Batman. Never has a quick restroom visit been so chilling in Weeks’ violent pencil and ink strokes as he blurs the boundaries between billionaire playboy and creature of the night, who definitely isn’t an impartial juror.

King and Weeks juxtapose the relatively restrained setting of the courtroom and jurors’ quarters with dynamic, brutal beatdowns and classic chiarascuro lighting from Breitweiser in Batman #51. It starts with the relatively mild mannered Bruce Wayne arriving at the courthouse for jury duty and the Frank Miller-channeling fists on face beatdown that Batman gives Mr. Freeze, one of the more sympathetic members of his rogue’s gallery. The flashback sequence crescendoes into a close-up of Freeze’s face in anguish, his goggles flying that takes up the whole middle of the page. Lee Weeks is truly a master of pain and gives him a furrowed brain and slobbering mouth. All the while, Bruce Wayne is calmly lying about his connection and thoughts about the Batman to the district attorney in measured, almost sterile dialogue from Tom King. However, this calmness turns into guilt beginning with a darkly framed silent scene in Bruce’s hotel room where it seems like he might slip into his costume and play Dark Knight until court in the morning. It hits a breaking point when Bruce breaks a sink off in the bathroom as he is wracked by the fear that his actions as Batman might have doomed an innocent man.

Until the end of the comic, King and Weeks portray Batman as a hypocrite and even insert little asides like Jim Gordon’s testimony and the jury deliberations that show the city of Gotham gives his violent vigilantism too much of a pass. Mr. Freeze’s defense attorney makes the point that the women were considered to have died of natural causes until Batman did his own autopsy and connected them to Freeze because their brain stems were “cold” in a true leap of logic setting up a darkly humorous nine panel grid of Gordon squirming and finally stating that Batman doesn’t have the authority to conduct autopsies in whatever state Gotham is in. Batman basically framed Mr. Freeze and coerced him into making a confession, but the jury is already convinced that Freeze is an evil villain and Batman is a perfect hero so who cares about the laws of the land. There isn’t really time to do a 12 Angry Men and develop all of the personalities of the jurors in Batman #51, but King does the next best thing and has them share quick personal stories about how Batman helped them instead of evidence to decide a verdict.

Many arguments for vigilantes, Batman included, state that they can execute justice in a more effective way than the legal and judicial system. However, Batman #51 shows that this isn’t all the case as the deaths of three women from natural causes has turned into a full blown murder investigation and has probably taken the place of more pressing matters. Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Elizabeth Breitweiser venture into the real world a little bit in this issue and go into the actual court systems while still having stylized moments like Batman dangling Freeze off the roof top.

In Batman #51, King, Weeks, and Breitweiser go beyond inserting Batman into the court room drama genre and use the trial of Mr. Freeze to probe into his anger and pain and the roots of Bruce/Batman’s sense of justice. Lee Weeks’ naturalistic approach to figures and faces really helps as most of the denizens of this book are ordinary citizens and not superheroes or villains.

Story: Tom King Art: Lee Weeks
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser Letters: Clayton Cowles

Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Kill or Be Killed #20

In the final issue of Kill or Be Killed, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser get gutsy narrative-wise by killing off their protagonist Dylan on the opening page, trying a kind of alternate ending, and then switching narrators altogether towards the end of the book. It’s unreliable narration at its finest, and Phillips and Breitweiser turn in some final snow blown New York vistas while Brubaker finally unpacks the book’s message in dramatic fashion, which is basically, “Everything and everyone is screwed”. And, in connection to the real world, this message makes much more sense that when the comic first dropped in the relatively halcyon days of August 2016. In a country where children are separated from their mothers and put in cages, women’s reproductive rights are on the chopping block, and there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited for on 4th of July, Kill or Be Killed’s observations about the unbeatable nature of evil sadly ring true. It’s not something that be thrown in jail or gunned down with a shotgun, it simply is.

Continuing a trend that has permeated the series, Ed Brubaker gives the protagonist, Dylan, some great valid points , but when it all boils down to it: he’s a white male gunning down people. The “imaginary” sequence narrated by him from the afterlife where he has a relatively stable life, is in a relationship with Kira, and acquaintances with the police officer who has been hunting him down the whole series culminates in him killing a corrupt cop and continuing to be a vigilante. (Although, he changes his outfit and M.O. every so often to keep the press, criminals, and NYPD off his trail because everyone’s genre savvy beyond the grave.) Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser riff off superhero comics for a bit in these scenes calling Dylan’s vigilante activities “an unsustainable fantasy version of life” and having the images of a masked man gunning down criminals or brooding on a rooftop ring hollow. The ever present snow helps.

Up to this point, I’ve been qualifying Kill or Be Killed #20 and the series as a whole as having a message or point, and it sort of does: the cycle of evil and the futility of violence to stop it. But, to its credit, Ed Brubaker isn’t preachy in the series using the unreliable narrator device to cast doubt on if Dylan is a sympathetic protagonist, and he and Sean Phillips even play to the lizard brain part of humans and give him a kind of “happy ending” that seems unearned and is ripped away for a path of pain and actual consequences. In what constitutes the comic’s third act, Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser relax the stylized panel compositions and dark greys, reds, and blacks for something more neutral and slice of life. Kill or Be Killed has gone from the New York of Death Wish to the New York of the “New York, I Love You” episode of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None although it forgoes its diverse POV for the perspective of a dead white man and a white woman. It’s almost like Brubaker and Philips are apologizing for unleashing Bernhard Goetz 2018 edition on 2018’s New York City.

However, this vibrancy is short lived as Brubaker switches narrators one final time from dead, omniscient Dylan (On a craft level, Kill or Be Killed proves that omniscient narrators still work in comics.) to Kira, whose emotions are filtered out in beautifully lettered captions that are like Todd Klein’s elaborate letters on Batman Year One, but on Sticky Notes. She’s angry that her best friend was ground down by his mental health issues, society around him, and his violent coping mechanisms and coupled with men cat-calling her at every corner, it leads to a breaking point and a literal mirror image of the possibly supernatural inciting incident of Kill or Be Killed. It also made me think about how even more fantastic this series would have been if Kira was the protagonist…

After an action heavy penultimate issue, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser use Kill or Be Killed #20 to play around with traditional narrative expectations and look at how life is both terrible and precious from a beyond the grave perspective. And, in closing, Dylan’s vigilante activities were definitely not commendable, and he needed psychiatric help much earlier than the final arc, but he made some excellent social observations throughout the series.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser’s Kill or be Killed to the Big Screen

The John Wick team of director Chad Stahelski and producer Basil Iwanyk are working to bring the comic Kill or Be Killed to the big screen. Dan Casey is attached to write the script. The comic is by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser, and published by Image Comics. Casey has previously adapted Icognito by Brubaker.

Producers for the film include Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Jeff Waxman, and Brubaker will be an executive producer.

The story revolves around a college student who survives an attempted suicide due to a demon. The demon informs the student for every life he takes he may live for one more month.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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

Review: Kill or Be Killed #8



Kill or Be Killed #8 brings us back to following the misadventures of Dylan. We get to watch the insecurities and realities begin to surround and almost smother him, and paranoia sink in. Sure, there is still some part of him that thinks he will get away with this, and while I don’t know the ending to the tale, the chips are certainly stacked against him.

As with most of the issues in this fantastic series, the end always sets up something huge for the next issue, and this is no different. This story has been an awesome slow burn that has added so many layers that you can tell will all certainly start intertwining soon, and that is what makes Ed Brubaker such an incredible writer, and storyteller.

Of course, a comic book is not just words, and the art is just as important as the script. Thankfully, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser draw and color the hell out of this series. They are some of the most consistent creators in comics, and together with Brubaker, make this one of the best comics out there.

As I have pointed out in my previous reviews of this series, Kill or Be Killed is something everyone should be reading. It is one of my favorite comics every month, and I don’t expect this to change anytime soon. I have the highest expectations for this story going forward, and the ending we will someday get to. I don’t expect it to be a happy ending, but I do expect it to be brilliantly written, and beautifully drawn.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy Celebrates Women’s History Month: Our Favorite Women in Comics

patsy walker aka hellcat 1 featuredLogan: Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Hellcat has been a joyful celebration of superheroes, young people, and queerness. I will miss its humor, chibi style art, and especially my bi bae Ian Soo when it ends in a couple months.


Alex: Faith (Valiant) I really can’t understate just how enjoyable this series is. There have definitely been some issues stronger than others, but each and every one in the ongoing series (and preceding miniseries) has been nothing short of a pleasure to read.

Jody Houser, Marguerite Sauvage and the revolving cast of artists have taken Faith to stunning heights in an effortlessly charming and warm series that will make you fall in love with comics all over again.


Shay: Gail Simone brings me LIFE! As does Roxane Gay! And I’m really loving Amanda Conner and her hubby’s direction for Harley Quinn! Also, loving Marguerite Bennett for the realistic portrayal of lesbians in Batwoman!


Joe: One of the best titles in the last year is Animosity from Aftershock. This fantastic story is written by Marguerite Bennett who has taken the comic book world by storm lately, and drawn by Rafael de Latorre. Basically, society has collapsed when animals can talk and decide to take over the world from humanity. Instead of a boy and his dog adventure like we’ve seen so many times, we get a girl and her dog. Jesse and her hound, Sandor are not only an awesome pair, but the story is about Jesse’s growth into womanhood without a mother figure. Sandor knows he cannot help like her mother could, but he learns to rely on the other female animals to guide her. It’s brilliant, and everyone should be reading it.


Patrick: Ann Nocenti’s run on Daredevil blew my mind when it was coming out. It was so different from what I’d been used to seeing from Denny O’Neil and Frank Miller – a strange urban poetry that was as close to magic realism as I’d ever seen in mainstream comics. With an off-kilter humor – the Human Torch showing up in a tight t-shirt reading “Bad!” – twisted romance, and psychodrama. Her writing was like nothing else on the stands.

A huge thanks to the editors and publishers behind the scenes who made a ton of great comics happen: Jenette Kahn, cat yronwode, Diana Schutz, Louise Jones/Simonson, Ann Nocenti, Shelly Bond, Alisa Kwitney, and most especially the inestimable Karen Berger.

Troy: It was a bit short lived, but I think there was a Defender’s title by Cullen Bunn about Valkyrie being tasked with assembling Midgard’s Valkyrie. Fear Itself the Fearless was kind of the prelude series to that. I really would have loved to see this series fleshed out.

monstress #5 featured

Madison: It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Monstress and Bitch Planet. They’re not for everyone, but they’re two of my go-to recommendations for people who love science fiction or fantasy. Elizabeth Breitweiser, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Jordie Bellaire consistently blow me away with their incredible colors.

Brett: I’m slightly obsessed with M. Goodwin’s Tomboy which is published by Action Lab: Danger Zone. The series follows a teenage girl whose best friend is murdered in a corrupt cop/conspiracy and she gets posessed by an avenging ghost in a way. Think Kick-Ass but a teenage girl in the lead and a manga influence to it all. An amazing mix of horror, action, and manga the hero Addison is a teenager that can kick ass and get some vengeance.

Review: Kill or Be Killed #6

img_0487Kill or Be Killed #6 fires off a shotgun blast of craziness and moves much quicker compared to the slower paced issue #5. That isn’t to say #5 wasn’t good because it was. It was just a slower paced book that ended with a big cliffhanger. That cliffhanger is where we start this issue obviously, and it doubles down by adding a few other levels of intensity and claustrophobia to what used to be a guy who was in over his head, thinking he is doing the right thing, and killing bad people because “a demon is telling him to”. Yes, I wrote that in quotes, because I wonder if the demon is a real demon at all, or something Dylan is either seeing or his brain is manifesting as either a self-defense mechanism or another condition. I trust Ed Brubaker as a writer and am excited to how far he takes this. This book explores what would happen if an everyday civilian tried to be The Punisher. Spoilers: it isn’t sustainable.

Just as Dylan thinks he is actually pulling this whole crazy vigilante plan off, a new detective is on the case. Enter Lily Sharpe, a young female detective who is beginning to connect the dots to random murders across New York City. Now that a masked vigilante made the front page of the paper, Detective Sharpe begins to put the pieces together to a previous case she worked on, the unsolved murder of man that had a laptop filled with child porn. If you’ve been reading this series, you should know who that man was, since it was Dylan’s first target. It’s funny how one thing can lead to another, and then all of a sudden a young, hungry detective is connecting murders that you committed. This is going to get crazy, very, very soon.

img_0486Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser do such a good job to make a modern story feel classic. Like the rest of this series, the all-star pair give this issue the pulp noir treatment, but with a bigger color palette. They have both worked with Brubaker on his other books, and it shows. They are a fantastic team that only continue to get better. They not only compliment the story, they are a large part of it. The panel work gives the feeling of scenes from a cop television drama and helps keep the narration spell out the plot clearly and give the book a nice easy to read flow and pace. Whether it’s original ideas like using first person viewpoints on evidence or a newspaper or the believable portrayal of human emotion on the characters, they do a great job making everything believable.

If you have not read Kill or Be Killed, you should check it out. The first volume is out containing issues #1-4 and it would be a great story to read in trade. Dylan is relatable in so many ways, well he was at least. Now you just want to yell “STOP!” at the book with every decision he makes, but I still feel like I am rooting for him. Even with the things he is doing, I believe he thinks he is doing the right thing. However, Dylan is no longer the man we knew in the first arc. He is becoming some super confident version of himself, and it definitely reads more and more like a cautionary tale. I can’t see a good way out of any of this for him, but as we know with good writers, not everything is as it seems, so let’s see where this book and Brubaker take us. For right now, there’s someone who is convinced he has to kill someone on a regular schedule to keep himself from dying because of what a demon told him. Also, there is a determined detective and an angry Russian mob after him as well. Everything is coming home to roost for Dylan. Maybe. Will he continue to kill or will he be killed?

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Color: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Image provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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