I was in New York City one night after New York Comic Con waiting to get dinner with some friends when I picked up Kill or Be Killed volume 1 just for fun. I’d read only a bit of Brubaker’s work before—his Captain America run and The Fade Out (also with Sean Phillips). But I’d heard such good things about Kill or Be Killed (just like with Morrison and Quietly’s awesome WE3), so I read it. It was immediately engrossed. The structure, the layouts, the characters—it all sang. It was easily one of the best comics I’d read all year.
So, when I made the last-minute decision to do 30 in 30 this month, I knew Kill or Be Killed volume 2 would be on the list. How could it not?
Title: Kill or Be Killed vol. 2
Storytellers: Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 176
Brubaker and Phillips' best-selling series keeps on hitting, as our vigilante hero goes deeper into the darkness, and the NYPD begin to realize there's a masked man killing bad guys all over town. Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, KILL OR BE KILLED is unlike anything this award-winning team has done before.
SPOILERS FOR KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 2 BELOW
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing
In the intro, I mentioned structure, and for good reason. Brubaker is a master. In the first volume and into this second volume, Brubaker plays with the structure, specifically regarding the order of events. He regularly starts in the middle, just back to catch the reader up, and then shows how the rest plays out from where an issue began.
What’s so amazing, though, is how he’s built it into the storytelling. The narrator and protagonist, Dylan, is a crappy storyteller, often starting in the middle, and then having to jump back to give some context and lead up. It’s a unique take on the unreliable narrator Dylan’s unreliability is not about whether he’s being honest, but rather that he can’t be depended on to just tell the story. He forgets parts, and then remembers them and inserts important information in the middle. It’s a great technique for creating and answering questions for the reader that keeps them invested and interested.
What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art
With all of the Sean Phillips books I’ve read, I’ve always been in awe of his art. It’s moody and expressive. What I noticed this time around, and especially in issue #6 of KoBK, is his layouts. The way he uses borderless establishing shots that seamlessly bleed into another borderless panel at the bottom of the page and insets the other panels on the page between them is stunning and effective. And the way he varies on this layout format keeps the book visually interesting. I guarantee that with closer inspection, each unique variation of the layout enhances the story on that page, too.
Recommendation: A (Must Read)
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