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Kill or Be Killed: Volume One (Image Comics, 2016; #1-4)

Perhaps the clearest endorsement I can give today’s book is this: as soon as I got home from picking up Kill or Be Killed at the comic shop, I had to read it right away.

That also means that I get to tell you about it, dear reader.

Kill or Be Killed is the latest book from the superstar noir team of Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser. The book follows a grad student who murders bad people to make good on a deal with a demon. If he stops, he dies. Of course, it’s also possible that this demon is figment of his imagination. But better safe than sorry. Right?

That uncertainty is what makes this book stand out—and not only in the question of whether the demon is real. That question spawns others. Is the demon a symptom of a psychological break? Or a fiction designed to make the need to kill more palatable? If he is real, is killing acceptable when it takes reprehensible criminals off the street? How bad does someone have to be to deserve it? Brubaker is a master of voice and noir-style narrations, and he uses that skill here, in conjunction with the story’s ambiguities, to question the reliability and morality of his own narrator.

The world of Kill or Be Killed is cold, moody, and isolated. Its protagonist feels alone, and the art channels that. His only real connection is to his best friend (whom he has feelings for). There are only two cases when the world’s coldness gives way to warmth and the world opens up into something larger and freer: when the two of them are together, and when he is on the hunt.

If you have any interest in a supernatural crime thriller, you absolutely should check Kill or Be Killed out. It's that simple.

Collected in

  • Kill or Be Killed, Volume One (#1-4)


Story: Ed Brubaker | Art: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Sean Phillips

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I Hate Fairyland: “Madly Ever After” (Image Comics, 2015; #1-5)