Tag Archives: sean phillips

Review: Kill or Be Killed #19

In the penultimate issue of the series, Kill or Be Killed #19 ties so many threads together as Detective Sharpe finally realizes that Dylan, not some random guy who got shot, is the masked vigilante. But the main event, or basically double feature, for Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Bettie Breitweiser is a ethics debate between Dylan and Sharpe about why he is a vigilante that is bookended by a tight corner, white knuckle shootout in the ironically named Serenity Oaks. Kill or Be Killed is smart and visceral and beautiful too with a blanket of snow covering the whole issue.

Sean Phillips uses different grids for the “interrogation” sequence in Kill or Be Killed #19 going wide when Dylan realizes that Sharpe has no jurisdiction to arrest or charge him and going skinny when he opens up after Sharpe brings up him killing his drug dealer, Rex, the only “innocent” caught in the crossfire. It doesn’t involve any intense violence, but has all the weight of a great reveal as Dylan gives up everything while also justifying his actions and even asking for thanks from the police officer. Phillips adds a nice level of subtext using the motivational posters in the room like “It’s okay to ask for help” when he opens up. The scene is a setpiece in and of itself with Dylan and Sharpe playing all kinds of emotional and moral trump cards when Dylan decides to go back to his room. However, Sharpe isn’t there to make an arrest; like Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, she’s interested in the psychology behind this vigilante killer. And Dylan finds a little bit of catharsis, and Phillips eases the wrinkles on his face for a bit until Kill or Be Killed kicks into action mode featuring its favorite baddies: the Russian mob. This scene plays out a lot like your favorite director just letting a couple great actors loose in a room as Phillips’ facial acting and use of gutters and Breitweiser’s fluctuating use of shadow play out a second act that is one hell of a moral drama.

With the help of a few panels in the beginning of Kill or Be Killed #19 that show how Dylan has been planning to be a better vigilante while on new meds, the fight between him and Sharpe and the Russian mobsters show how far he’s come since a freaked out, Brooklyn hipster shooting bad people to make a demon shut up. Brubaker and Phillips give him one-liners that would be badass without the context of the series, has him coolheadedly direct a plan of escape,  and even has him make a heroic play towards the end, but scenes that would be “Hell yes!” in any other comic or action movie are downright tragic in Kill or Be Killed. Dylan doesn’t need a gun; he needs help. He may make some valid points about how the United States is a plutocracy, but solves this problem by shooting people in the head. However, Brubaker and Philips don’t make any black and white judgments on him (Even though this is how Dylan says he sees in the world in a sequence reminiscient of Heath Ledger’s Joker with less grease paint.) and make the Russians’ arrival at Serenity Oaks the result of a corrupt cop, not vigilantism. This book loves its moral conundrums, which is great, and places it in the well-earned company of Brian Garfield’s original novel Death Wish , not the Charles Bronson and especially not the 2018 remake directed by Eli Roth.

When reading Kill or Be Killed, I either think that Dylan makes some good points about systemic injustice, is a total violent fuckboy, or is somewhere in between. He isn’t a conventionally likable protagonist, especially in an age of white male mass shooters, even though Ed Brubaker gives him the political views of a frustrated progressive. However, towards the end of Kill or Be Killed #19, he and Sean Phillips start to give Dylan a real, guns a-blazing redemption arc. But his actions with Sharpe against the Russians show how numb he is to killing compared to the police officer who is in shock as the snow swirls around them providing Phillips and Breitweiser a visual shorthand to her emotional state.

With beautifully staged debates about justice and corruption and a chilling, closing action sequence, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Bettie Breitweiser turn in virtuosic shadow drenched and snow blown work in Kill or Be Killed #19. I can’t wait to see how this grounded lofi (at times) approach to the vigilante genre ends…

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Bettie Breitweiser
Story: 9.5  Art: 10 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Image Comics’ #WeBelieve Focuses on Artists with Wraparound Covers

Image Comics has revealed the first seven of 14 exclusive virgin wraparound covers in celebration of artists and the importance and impact they have in defining the comics medium. We Believe in Artists will be the first of many initiatives throughout Image’s planned #WeBelieve 2018 campaign highlighting the important, lately overlooked components of the comics industry.

Comics is a visual storytelling medium with artwork as the driving force behind the narrative, tone, and spirit of a comic book’s sequential narrative. Image Comics hopes to cast a spotlight for fans and members of the comic book community on the momentous significance a piece of artwork can have to sell these stories to readers.

Without titles, endorsement quotes, names, logos, or jacket copy, these wraparound covers feature solely the masterpiece artwork that fans won’t want to miss out on experiencing.

The following bestselling series will feature one of these exclusive, undressed, breathtaking collectors’ covers.

Available on Wednesday, March 7th, final order cutoff deadline on Monday, February 12th:

  • Extremity #12 (Diamond Code JAN180743) by Daniel Warren Johnson
  • I Hate Fairyland #17 (Diamond Code JAN180756) by Skottie Young
  • The Wicked + The Divine #34 (Diamond Code JAN180654) by Jamie McKelvie
  • Witchblade #4 (Diamond Code JAN180875) by Roberta Ingranata

Available on Wednesday, March 14th, final order cutoff deadline on Monday, February 19th:

  • Curse Words #12 (Diamond Code JAN180722) by Ryan Browne
  • Deadly Class #32 (Diamond Code JAN180624) by Wes Craig
  • Maestros #6 (Diamond Code JAN180797) by Nicholas Pitarra
  • VS #2 (Diamond Code JAN180842) by Esad Ribić

Available on Wednesday, March 21st, final order cutoff deadline on Monday, February 26th:

  • Kill or be Killed #17 (Diamond Code JAN180793) by Sean Phillips
  • Monstress #15 (Diamond Code JAN180801) by Yoshi Yoshitani
  • Rumble #4 (Diamond Code JAN180820) by David Rubín

Available on Wednesday, March 28th, final order cutoff deadline on Monday, March 5th:

  • Beauty #21 (Diamond Code JAN180700) by Jeremy Haun
  • Spawn #284 (Diamond Code JAN180831) by Todd McFarlane
  • East of West #37 (Diamond Code DEC178255) by Nick Dragotta

New Story Arc of Kill or Be Killed an Electric Shock to Readers and Goes Back to Print

The highly anticipated new story arc of Ed Brubaker and Sean PhillipsKill or Be Killed is on fire with fans eager to pick up where the Volume Three trade paperback’s jaw-dropping cliffhanger left off. Kill or Be Killed #15 is being rushed back to print in order to keep up with the overwhelming demand.

A departure from Brubaker and Phillips’ noir leanings, fan and retailer support has positioned Kill or Be Killed as one of the hottest series on shelves. The addictive ongoing series hooks readers with monster-of-the-week style storytelling and gut-punch plot twists.

The series is currently in development for the big screen with John Wick Director Chad Stahelski and producer Basil Iwanyk on board the project.

Kill or Be Killed follows a young man who is forced to kill bad people and how he struggles to keep his secret as it slowly ruins his life and the lives of his friends and loved ones. In this cannot-miss issue, Dylan is forced to confront the reality of his violent actions and his sanity…and nothing will ever be the same again.

Every issue of Kill or Be Killed contains extra content and articles only available in the single issues.

Kill or Be Killed #15, 2nd printing (Diamond Code DEC178235) will be available on Wednesday, February 21st. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, January 29th.

Kill or Be Killed #16 will be available on Wednesday, February 14th.

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 #9

Kill or Be Killed is Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Bettie Breitweiser’s ongoing crime/vigilante comic about a Dylan, a young man who attempts suicide and survives because he makes a deal with a demon to give him one dead body each month. What follows is a 21st century equivalent of Death Wish except Brubaker and Phillips are more self-aware at exploring Dylan’s relationship with his family and friends, mental health, and privilege.

Kill or Be Killed #9 is a particularly thrilling installment of the series and is paced like one of the better episodes of Breaking Bad starting with an image of violence or tension in the opening pages, parsing the context for the image, and then ending on a hell of a cliffhanger after Dylan thinks he’s in the clear. Except he’s in deep shit from page one onward with a reveal that the Russian Mafia has been onto him for a while. A routine pickup of anti-anxiety meds from his dealer Rex (Because the American healthcare system sucks.) turns into a shootout with bodies literally dropping and a bullet riddled van careening from Brooklyn to South Jersey.

Sean Phillips and Bettie Breitweiser’s approach to action is less stylized and more frightening and gut wrenching in Kill or Be Killed #9. The gun fight isn’t something out of a Tarantino or Woo film, but bodies and bullets falling awkwardly. Dylan knows what he’s doing a little bit more than the first issue when he got the stuffing beaten out of him, but he bests the Mafia’s fairly dumb hitman, Bogdan (His phone passcode is “0000”.) through sheer luck and fear. He’s no Chow Yun Fat, and unlike Walter White in the early seasons of Breaking Bad, it’s a lot harder to evade getting caught by the police/organized crime in New York City versus New Mexico as Brubaker’s captions, Phillips’ drawing of awkward body movements, and Breitweiser use of pedestrian colors like grey and brown keep the story grounded. Dylan isn’t cool at all; he’s a messed up dude, and this entire issue is riddled with the mistakes he makes even as he blows up a van and talks trash about Bogdan’s lack of phone security.

One thing I enjoy about the way Ed Brubaker plots Kill or Be Killed is that there are always consequences and ripples to Dylan’s action. For example, in the previous issue, the presence of a vigilante in New York leads to the return of stop and frisk by the NYPD, but white males wearing hoodies are profiled in a dark bit of satire. He doesn’t get off scot-free like Charles Bronson in the five or so Death Wish films, but getting driven by a Russian cab driver after killing a Russian stripper was a bad idea and comes back to bite him and drive issue nine’s story. And there are more immediate consequences too as throwing a near dead Rex in front of a hospital on a crowded New York street while wearing a mask  is a boneheaded idea, but Dylan still has a bit of a conscience and feels bad for accidentally shooting him. However, Dylan is in a steaming pile of trouble as the final issue of the arc draws near, and Brubaker and Phillips put his metaphorical feet to the flame. Phillips especially adds a lot to the complexity of Dylan’s character with some of his close-ups showing him as a fearful, anxiety ridden boy manipulated by a demon while others portray him as a an iron jawed, unrelenting killer, who pulls the trigger on Bogdan without hesitation because he must.

Kill or Be Killed #9 is a master class in creating suspense through a non-linear narrative as Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Bettie Breitweiser use the context of flashbacks to deepen the feeling of terror that Dylan feels, and how close he is to getting pinched/whacked. He is one paranoid drug dealer away from being murdered in his bed, and the varied angles that Phillips uses in his panels unpack this uneasiness as Dylan is royally screwed going into issue 10.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Bettie Breitweiser
Story: 9.5  Art: 10 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years this August

This August, DC Comics will release Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years—an oversized hardcover collection to celebrate the lines’ legacy with reprints of WildStorm’s greatest stories, behind-the-scenes material and BRAND-NEW art and stories from some of the greatest writers and artists in the industry. At this year’s WonderCon, DC released a first look at the cover drawn by WildStorm Studios founder and DC Publisher Jim Lee, as well as some awesome pinups from Lee Bermejo, Fiona Staples, Carlos D’Anda, Sean Phillips, Tom Raney, and Gina Going-Raney. DC has released more of what to expect from this vast compilation.

Included you’ll find:

  • THE AUTHORITY story preview from Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Laura Martin
  • BACKLASH short story preview from Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund and Andrew Dalhouse
  • DEATHBLOW pinup from Tim Sale and Brennan Wagner
  • WILDCATS pinup from Ryan Benjamin

Stay tuned for more stories and pinups from Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell, Adam Hughes and more!

Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years will be on final order cutoff next Monday, June 5, and on sale August 23. Feel free to share these previews of exclusive new stories and pinups at anytime.

Review: Kill or Be Killed #8

KillOrBeKilled_08-1

*MINOR SPOILERS BELOW*

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

Hardcover Collected Edition of Grayson, Phillips & Bolton’s User Hits Stores this May

Image Comics has announced that the groundbreaking three-part Vertigo miniseries—User written by Devin Grayson and featuring breathtaking art by Sean Phillips and John Bolton—has found a home at Image with an all-new hardcover collected edition set to hit stores this May.

User explores sexual identity and online role-playing in the text-based MUDs of the nineties. The series was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for its authentic portrayal of gender fluidity when it was first published, and it remains as relevant and powerful today as it was when first created.

User HC (ISBN: 978-1-5343-0159-7, Diamond Code MAR170839) hits comic book stores on Wednesday, May 17th and bookstores on Tuesday, May 23rd. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, April 17th.

Review: Kill or Be Killed #7

KillOrBeKilled_07-1MINOR SPOILERS BELOW

To put it simply, this is one of the best comic books out. That’s doesn’t mean it is one of the best non-superhero books, or best crime or noir books, it is one of the best comic books out in the entire medium right now. This is the type of story made by masters of their craft, and this crack team are certainly that. This isn’t their first comic together, or even their first crime comic together, and it shows. You always hear act like you’ve been there before, well these three have, and it shows in Kill or Be Killed #7.

The story does not start off or even touch much on Dylan’s situation much until the end of the book, and even then it is all seen through Kira’s eyes. If you do not remember or know who Kira is, she is the old friend and former lover of Dylan, oh and the ex-girlfriend of his roommate. Yeah, sometimes life is messy, and this story nails real flawed people, and how crazy life can be. None of this odd love triangle or square at this point feels forced, cliché, or unbelievable. This issue felt earned because I have been with these characters on a journey. Kira’s return felt real, and something I have seen in my own life, where an ex returns out of the blue because they want the other person back, or have some other plan. Let’s just say that when Kira does return, she finds some things that she does not like, including that other woman.

Ed Brubaker made an issue that I think could have been pretty boring and while it took me a bit to get into it the way I did, I then realized what he was doing. He took an entire issue and put a ton of character development into it. I feel like I know Kira so much more, and I am so excited to see where this story goes with her back in it. This issue also set up some big things for future issues with what she finds that I won’t spoil. The world seems to be ready to come down around Dylan, who thinks he’s still pulling all of this off, but we know in the real world, things don’t work this way. Dylan is not some expert assassin. He’s not The Punisher. He’s someone in over his head, and he now has a curious and scorned ex as well as a detective looking at things he doesn’t want or know are being looked at.

Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser are the other half of this crack team. They have been with Brubaker on other classics, and they absolutely blew me away with this issue. From the brilliant use of panels showing Kira and her psychiatrist, which again helped so much with her character development, to the photo album filled with old pictures of Kira’s family members that had died, which by the way was a very haunting idea that her family did that. You can see many layers to Kira, as if she was a real person because that’s how real people are. I know I have repeated that quite a bit, but to me it’s one of the most impressive things about this book, and this team. The hard to look awkward scene at the end of the book where Kira is let’s just say eavesdropping on Dylan was depicted so well. From the dialogue, and having it told through her eyes and her ears was a fantastic use of storytelling.

You should read Kill or Be Killed. I think it’s a book that anyone can appreciate. You don’t have to just like crime books, or detective books, this is about real people in real situations, and in real trouble real soon. Dylan is on a crash course for a bad ending, but the book keeps me guessing, and I love it for that. It is continuously one of my favorite comics every month, and I highly recommend to everyone.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Color: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story: 9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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