Well howdy! Welcome to the NEW comic column. If you used to read the precursor column to this one – Thee Comic Column – you’ll no doubt remember that I dropped off penning that column all the way back in December. Holy cow! I had no idea it had been that long. The impetus for stopping Thee Comic Column – other than that particular name never really gelled with me; it was meant to be an allusion to Genesis P. Orridge’s Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth but mostly I feel just made it sound as though I had a wantonly high opinion of my thoughts on our favorite periodical industry – was that after going for 150 mostly weekly iterations I had reached a point with my writing that no longer saw a focus placed on discussions surrounding the mediums I love. I’d already pretty much given up writing about film after leaving Chud.com, so abandoning something I had created was not without precedent in my life. And honestly I’d realized some time before December 2015 that the column was just one more way to distract myself from finishing the novel I’d been working on tooth and nail for four years. So, I jettisoned the column, my podcast Drinking with Comics (which may return at some point) and knuckled down on my own story.
The result? It worked.
With the novel finished and in the hands of two beta readers I relaxed a bit. It was at almost this exact moment that my fellow Jouper Tommy’s published a wonderful Comic Column One-Shot detailing his marvel for the fantastic new Black Monday Murders. I was flattered beyond words. And along with that flattered feeling Tommy’s piece got me thinking about resurrecting the column, though I knew it would have to take on a new form. So, well, here we are, the first column in For The Love Of Comics – what probably will not be a weekly column, but what I will attempt to publish as books, creators and events in comics pop up and make me feel as though I absolutely have to write about them. This doesn’t mean I won’t still do nostalgia pieces, re-assessments and re-reads, but, well, we’ll see how it goes. I’m also throwing the door open to any other Jouper who wants to pen one of these. I can’t stress enough how much I dug Tommy’s take on Black Monday Murders, or how I’d love to read a piece by Chester Whelks on the Aliens: Earth War series he wrote me about a few years ago, or the Army of Darkness adaptation he loves so much. And then there’s Daniel, who has an energy and passion I admire beyond words; last year he posted some brief thoughts on social media pertaining to a certain cosmic Black Mask series that almost made me reach out and offer a guest spot at the time. So here now guys, this is the call to arms. You want to write about something in comics? Well, do it! Let’s all do it together. You know, for the love of comics!
So what’s the first thing I feel as though I absolutely have to talk about in this new space? Well, it’s the new serialized series by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s, Kill or Be Killed. And it is Awesome!
Once again published by Image, Kill or Be Killed is this team at its best. And that’s saying something. I wouldn’t have thought there could be any higher example of B, P & E’s streamlined, no-nonsense storytelling after I finished The Fade Out but then here we are, just two issues into Kill or Be Killed and I’m pretty sure this is going to rank in as their best work to date. Why? Well, not because the story is better than The Fade Out, or Criminal, or Fatale. No, it’s because the synergistic relationship between these creators has become such a well-honed force that the story ideas may not be of higher caliber – let’s face it, all of their stories are high concept – but because the execution certainly is. I can’t explain this anymore than I have because the real explanation here is in the reading of the book. So, you know, you’re going to have to read it to see what I’m talking about. If you’re a fan of this team then I’d imagine you already are reading Kill or Be Killed and can vouch for what I’m saying. If this is the precipice of your first foray into the works of Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser then by all means, take the plunge. You won’t regret it and I have no doubt you’ll see what I mean as far as just how well this story is shaping up to be told. Technique is a discipline and over a decade of working on pulp-ish, Noir-inspired books has helped B, P & E refine and perfect that technique.
And of course, the story itself is pretty awesome too!
I don’t want to get into the plot too much for fear of spoiling some things that took me totally by surprise as far as the mechanics of the plot, but let’s just say we start with a college-aged kid who attempts to kill himself and fails. After that, he realizes the world isn’t exactly what he thought it was and becomes a force for, well, I guess he sees it as good – whether that good is just the good of personal survival or the good of the world at large is anyone’s guess at this point. But his good isn’t the good the average person would choose. It’s a dark, seedy, bloody good. And isn’t that what this team does best? Dark. Seedy. Bloody. Those three ingredients are the DNA of Noir and B, P & E have learned them inside and out in order to expand Noir as something other than just a genre. Instead, it’s an aesthetic that can be used to color and tell all kinds of stories. Fatale was definitely proof of that, and now this is a level up. For my money, nobody else is doing it better.
Oh yeah, and I should add that just like in The Fade Out, Devin Faraci’s articles in the bnack of Kill or Be Killed – all thus far based on the series’ topic of revenge – are easily my all0time favorite supplemental material. I’d pay just to read these articles and in keeping with that would be remiss if I didn’t plug Devin’s site: Birth. Movies. Death.
Kill or Be Killed #2 just hit shelves two weeks ago and #1 has a second printing en route, so jump on now and read the f&*k out of it!
Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.