Kill or Be Killed #1 (Image Comics)
Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to review this book to convince you to buy it. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips should be reason alone for you to purchase this. The hit team of The Fade Out, Fatale, and Criminal is back with a brand new Image series Kill or Be Killed, which has the superstar creative team taking on vigilantism in modern day, but with a supernatural twist.
Brubaker and Phillips’ latest focuses on a grad student who, after attempting suicide, is visited by a devil and told that he must kill one person a month in exchange for staying alive. He can’t just kill anyone though; it has to be someone really bad, who really deserves it. It’s a weird twist that I’ll admit I didn’t see coming, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Brubaker and Phillips’ work has always had a touch of the Supernatural about it, from Fatale to even some aspects of The Fade Out and Criminal. This series looks to be taking a more direct approach in the Supernatural, but at the same time, I’m still not convinced that our lead isn’t completely crazy and imaging the whole thing to give him an excuse to murder thugs and lowlifes.
Brubaker’s script isn’t has seedy or noir as his previous work, but it’s a good change of pace for the writer. It’s nice to see him deconstruct this kid who now has to struggle with the decision to kill someone in exchange for his own life, and how he’s going to find a way to accomplish that without alerting his roommate. Brubaker’s script starts off with a literal bang, but when he pulls back and gives us the necessary back-story it’s just as gripping. Kill or Be Killed feels different from Brubaker’s other work, and it adds to his strengths as a creator.
What can I say about Sean Phillips that hasn’t already been said? His work is phenomenal on its own, but when it’s paired with a script like Brubaker’s its dynamite. When the demon visits it’s downright chilling. He emerges out of the shadows in such a great way that you’ll be looking through the other panels after he appears to see if you can spot him. The sense of dread and paranoia builds throughout the issue, and that’s in large part to Phillips’ artwork.
If you’ve read Criminal, The Fade Out, or any of the other Brubaker and Phillips collaborations then you already know that this comic book is worth your time. But if you’ve never given these guys a shot (which is baffling to me), Kill or Be Killed is an excellent book to grab to see just how good Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are together. It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are the best team working in comics. Period.