By Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser

The action and drama don’t let up for a second in issue #2 of Kill or be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. No surprise really, because these two creators only seem to put out top of the line comic books with a quality so consistent across all of their titles, that they seemingly cannot be outmatched. Equal doses of action and drama are what allow stories by Brubaker and Phillips to soar. No matter the series, or subject matter, these guys deliver one compelling crime comic after another. Sometimes the premise is grounded in the real world, other times they offer a supernatural perspective and other times, like with Kill or be Killed, there is a sense of mystery created by blurring the lines.

In issue #2 we begin to realize this is a story about morals; the guilt and consequences of our actions according to – and on the fringes of – societal standards. Can your actions, right or wrong, truly relieve you of guilt, or are you better off suppressing residual emotions? Could there possibly be greater things at stake that outweigh our own personal understanding of morality? These are some of the questions we’re left with while we wait for the third issue of this series – a month never felt so far away. Meantime, the discussion literally exists in the comic itself, using the main character’s inner monologue as a means of guiding us through some rough waters from his past. If we went off of the images alone this would be a story about a cold-blooded murderer, but the insight we’re given beyond the images lets us know there’s more than meets the eye.

Writer Ed Brubaker doesn’t craft a story that’s necessarily accessible in content, but the way he tells it is. Whether parts shock you or not, you’ll want to keep reading because it’s done in a compelling manner. Every character feels real and necessary, and every plot is represented without holes, even while new ones are introduced. You can’t help but get the sense that this stuff is planned out and detailed way in advance, and mostly realized by the time Brubaker begins scripting issue one. Then, when Sean Phillips begins illustrating it, the thing has a life of it’s own and, like the writing, Phillips draws pictures that invite us in and make us feel welcomed. Even the violence is done with an artistic touch that makes it so much more than a spike in the storyline. It’s not an action sequence as much as it’s the point in the book where violence is maybe the only natural outcome. And Phillips, combined with colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, makes everything feel like a cohesive world with viable people and places. The artwork keeps pace with the writing, which is exactly what is meant by equal doses. At times, the action is in the words, not the images, and then it switches so seamlessly that you may not even notice the harmony from page to page. That’s a very good thing.

There’s an undeniably intimate connection between the reader and the page that makes Kill or be Killed as good as Criminal, The Fade Out or any of the other titles by Brubaker and Phillips. Don’t miss the rest of this series and, if you dig it, make sure you grab trades of everything they’ve done before.


About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.