Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 3, 2016
Physical Cover Price: $3.99
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
Review: If it’s different you want, then it’s different you can have here with the first issue of ‘Kill or Be Killed’ – particularly if you’re a Brubaker fan. While known for his stints on ‘Batman,’ ‘The Uncanny X-Men,’ ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Captain America,’ and more, Brubaker cut his teeth in the “crime fiction” arena, and it would be easy for the casual fan to lump ‘Kill or Be Killed’ into that category. After all, this issue features guns and murdering and stuff – that’s crime fiction, right? Casual fans, wake up: ‘Kill or Be Killed’ is as much “crime fiction” as ‘The Punisher’ is, which is to say, not at all.
In ‘Kill or Be Killed,’ a vigilante character does take center stage, but it’s how this character becomes as we see him in his current state that drives most of this first issue. Dylan is a twenty-something who is feeling pretty aimless in life; he doesn’t have a girlfriend or a good job, and he lost his spot in grad school a while back after his first suicide attempt. He’s mad at the world, like many people are, and he feels helpless to do anything that could enact real change – again, a sentiment shared my many people these days. After he discovers that the girl he likes has been spending time with him out of pity more than anything else, Dylan decides it’s time to end it all. As he makes the fateful step off the top of his NYC apartment building, he has a pang of remorse and decides he wants to live; without giving to much away in the book, something happens on his fall that irrevocably changes him, and he survives his ordeal relatively physically unscathed.
It’s the part I’m not telling you about that significantly ratchets up the intriguing nature of the ‘Kill or Be Killed’ storyline, and while I apologize for being vague, I don’t want to ruin the crucial part of the story for you. Just know that Dylan’s got a significantly different outlook on his role in life afterwards, but his core ideology remains intact: he thinks the world is a decent place that’s being ruined by crappy people, and he finally gets the opportunity to start doing something about it. Brubaker has managed to capture the general unsettled sentiment that most of us keep below the surface and channel it through his lead character; Dylan’s not a bad person or an overly angry one, just someone who sees what’s happening to the world around him and is extremely displeased with it. Without bashing you over the head as being “too emo,” the artwork duties by Phillips and Breitweiser are dark and tonal in all the right ways. As a long-time fan and reader of The Punisher, I can happily say that ‘Kill or Be Killed’ is not just a reheash of the standard vigilante “something bad happens to someone, so they go out and kill people” trope, and the originality in this book is greatly appreciated.
Advance Verdict: Brutally honest and explosively beautiful – this is a series to pay serious attention to.
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 10, 2016
Physical Cover Price: $4.99
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tomm Coker
Quick Hit: Image has long been a leader in the comic industry when it comes to publishing characters and titles that are, shall we say, a little off the beaten path; they take chances that not many other companies are willing to take, and many times it pays off for them. I hope the payoff comes to them for their work in producing ‘The Black Monday Murders,’ because it’s a trippy and mind-bending story in all the right ways.
The story opens on “Black Thursday,” October 24, 1929 – the day of the biggest stock market crash in US history. Overconfidence in the system and assumptions about the stock market’s invulnerability culminated in a panicky day of investors trading at high levels and then selling abruptly; this was the factual cause of the market bottoming out and crashing… or was it? ‘The Black Monday Murders’ posit a different theory altogether: that the large investment firms and banking groups are actually covers for secret rival organizations of magic and mysticism, and that on Black Thursday, a darker higher power controlling the magic called in some of the debt to be paid. It’s an idea that sounds strange because in “normal society” we’d think of it as so outlandish – and that’s part of what turns it in to such good reading. As Indiana Jones (and countless others) might say, “it’s so crazy that it just might work.”
Credit writer Hickman for breathing life into situations and conversations that might otherwise seem ludicrous; as an example, there’s the inventive spin on the factual account of stock brokers being so distraught during the crash that they threw themselves from their office windows, but in the world of ‘The Black Monday Murders,’ these men are actually being thrown to their deaths as a ritualistic sacrifice to appease the occult powers-that-be. Artist Coker uses a wide palette of colors to properly convey the differentiation in the story between past and present without ever making a situation visually present in an inorganic way. The effective use of the “redacted” black lines to cover text in the book’s chapter-based graphics and the old-timey typewriter font for in-betweens adds to the feel that what we’re reading, gosh darnit, could be what actually happened instead of what we know from the history books.
Advance Verdict: An intriguing blend of things not meant to go together – occultism and finance – yet it totally works. We can promise you’ve never read any comic quite like this one.
Tony Schaab wishes Mars would attack, just one time – at least then we could all go back and watch the historical document ‘Mars Attacks!’ to see how our ancestors handled it back in the day. A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.