Page 45 Review by Stephen
The psychological self-examination of one affable if awkward young man's descent into mass murder.
If you think it improbable that you will root for the guy, I'd remind you that such is the strength of Brubaker's internal monologues that the self-contained CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF INNOCENT had us all desperately praying that a man could get away with uxoricide.
This is the periodical I pick up first no matter what else is on offer on any given week.
There's nothing sensationalist about it. Our narrator is an astute individual with a keen moral compass, and that's as much of a trigger as anything. Much of the priming in terms of mental isolation has already been explored, but the other trigger - the core motivation, if you like - is an element of the first KILL OR BE KILLED which I deliberately kept from you for fear of spoilers.
I'm not going to elaborate here, either, except to say that there is a moment of discovery on the part of his best friend Kira which leaves her in fear for Dylan's safety, while holed up in his closet as he makes love to an ex-girlfriend. Kira, it should be noted, is undoubtedly the love of his life, but lest he blurts out something incriminating he's been keeping her at a distance, even as she confides in him.
It's not this discovery that he's worried about, but he should be.
And it explains everything which you may have puzzled over in book one.
Where Dylan has become compromised is with both the NYPD and the Russian mob now, after one public blunder (or a spot of bad luck) and a miscalculation about just how wide the Russians' net is spread and how tenacious they can be. Fortunately institutional sexism and male police pride may give him some breathing space for now, but the Russians are more open-minded and resourceful.
There's little more that I didn't explore in my substantial review of KILL OR BE KILLED VOL 1 (so I'd refer you there instead) including Sean Phillips's decision to retain his three-tier structure while throwing the art full-bleed, right to edges of each page, so that you're no longer kept at an observational distance but thrust right into the heart of the action and Dylan's head.
Here's more of his self-justification:
"Lobbyists aren't all bad, of course. Some lobby for human rights or the environment. But most of the time, they work for big business and what they do is, they pay a lot of money to politicians to pass laws or repeal regulations... so the corporations they work for can do whatever the fuck they want.
"Gideon Prince was the kind of lobbyist who helped put poison in your drinking water and then laughed about it to his buddies.
"And what I mean is, he'd done that exact thing...
"And yes, look - I know this one is sort of a stretch. He didn't personally poison that ground water. But people who can look at dumping chemicals as a good thing because it saves them money... who can make fun of the people who are suffering because of it?
"It's hard to argue the world wouldn't be better off without them."
He's exceptionally self-aware and quite the philosophical conversationalist when it comes to his audience if not his few "friends" whom he keeps at a remove. He's not deluding himself, except when it comes to that one key element which, when you discover it, is sadly so common.
Most of his longer reflections and reminiscences are aligned down blank vertical columns outside of the art, giving them chance to breathe, but don't get too complacent about what's being shown there, that's all I'll say.
I never intended this second review to be anything but brief, but you could write an essay on the body language alone: little details which either Brubaker or Phillips drops in, like Detective Lily Sharpe - the one on the ball whom her fellow officers studiously dismiss and ignore - who was raised in foster care between several group homes, reading on the bottom bunk of a bed, the toes of her bare feet digging self-protectively into the duvet as someone else's dangle over the top.
There's something squat, rough and ready about Dylan's physique and physiognomy. It's not simian, but it's burly and certainly atypical of most protagonists', both within comics and without; I keep thinking of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis.
Anyway, with police attention now drawn, so is the media's and I suspect Sean will become quite sick of drawing news stands before Dylan's done.
Dylan is forced to become more reactive while increasingly restricted, and even though you know that he lives to tell this tale (if not under what circumstances), you will be kept on the edge of that proverbial seat, toes possibly digging into the carpet.