Double Book Review: Kill or Be Killed 1 & 2

kill or be killed 2

Title(s): Kill or Be Killed Vol. 1 & 2

Author: Ed Brubaker

Illustrator: Sean Phillips

Genre: Graphic Novels/Crime Thrillers

Number of Pages: 128 (Vol. 1)/ 160 (Vol. 2)

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes




So far I’ve been enjoying Kill or Be Killed, the first two volumes have been quick, action-packed thrill rides that still manage to keep the reader grounded in the horror of the main character’s situation. It’s also a unique vigilante story where the protagonist maintains a believable arc and doesn’t fall into cartoonish territory.


Dylan is a down-on-his-luck grad student and a very unhappy young man. He comes from a broken home haunted by memories of a father who committed suicide, he’s plagued by feelings of isolation and despair, and the woman he’s in love with is dating his friend.


One night Dylan decides to kill himself and fails, miraculously surviving the fall with only superficial injuries. He goes home in a daze and crashes, only to be visited by a very temperamental demon who tells him he’s been given another chance to live out his life. However, there’s a catch, since Dylan has cheated death he has to kill someone every month. He gets to choose who to kill, but lack of monthly payment will result in his immediate termination.


Naturally Dylan tries to convince himself that the demon is a manifestation of many untreated mental health problems, but he soon goes from thinking of himself of someone who could never kill another human being to someone who begins to seek out violence like morphine. He tries to only kill evil people, but pretty soon balancing his relationships with the people he cares about and his secret extracurricular activities becomes virtually impossible.


Dylan never struck me as a particularly good person but he always feels utterly human, and the combination of text and illustrations do an outstanding job of pulling the reader into his frenetic perspective. There’s a lot of feeling behind the character’s expressions and body language, and Dylan rarely targets the same kind of people, instead taking the reader through a tour of different kinds of corruption and predation.


My main criticism of the first two volumes is that even though the second book tries to provide backstory for several central female characters, so far they’ve failed to be genuinely interesting or feel like they have identities outside of Dylan’s dramas. I think the exception would be the lady police detective who’s trying to track him down, she seems like she might have a lot of potential as a opponent determined¬† to foil Dylan’s crime spree.


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