Page 45 Review by Stephen
"And suddenly every word that she said was a gift.
"Every smile was a miracle,
"I'd been so stupid... We're all so stupid all the time.
"We stop noticing our miracles."
We do indeed.
And now for the bits you've been waiting for!
KILL OR BE KILLED book one began in blazing gunfire, a sequence we've been promised a return to, and by the end of this volume you will finally see Dylan in that "hotel" with the shotgun, you'll understand exactly why he's so focussed, specifically on social injustice, and it's all but the beginning of a meticulously thought out act-and-distract plan to shut down the local Russian mafia for good.
If he doesn't, they've given every indication that they will come for his girlfriend, Kira.
KILL OR BE KILLED has been the practical and psychological self-examination of one educated young man's descent into mass murder.
It didn't start with the Russian mafia, it began with a suicide attempt and several episodes which he now hopes were psychotic, but I still don't want to give that game away because we're looking for new readers here, and it forms such a substantial strand of the series that will keep you speculating feverishly far beyond this volume and well into the next chapters beginning with KILL OR BE KILLED #15.
As to practicalities, we're most of us more capable than we imagine we are. Dylan is ruminative by nature - which is why it's taken two volumes to get to this point! - thinking things through, though not all the time with a clear head; that, he would be the very first to concede. Here he contemplates courage, and the nature of fear as something self-imposed as well as instilled in us through aphorisms and cautionary tales designed to curtail our curiosity or limit our ambition (Daedalus / Icarus and "A bird in the hand..." etc). We are persuaded to believe not in ourselves, but in our weaknesses, drawing lines in the sand which we dare not cross. But if others have crossed them - if one person can kill a grizzly bear - why cannot we?
He's forever referencing films, is our Dylan, and books. As I say, he's educated and it's his constant self-questioning which in part makes him so very credible and captivating, engaging his audience conversationally - for he is emphatically addressing each one of us - as to his various successes or failures in storytelling and whether we find him frustrating, which is funny. Here is he shown for umpteenth time breaking and entering into the brothel.
"Okay, so look, I promise you we're getting very close to this moment.
"By the end of this chapter... for sure.
"I mean, this is all part of that plan I was formulating....
"As you're going to see soon. Really soon.
"But before we get to this -
"And I know, I know, I'm the worst narrator in history for actually getting to the point...
"Well, maybe after Tristram Shandy...
"But there's just some stuff you have to know before the action gets going again.
"I mean, it can't all be action... right?"
Dylan's also unusually self-aware, constantly rummaging around in his own troubled memories and the physical boxes of published art which his father left behind, whilst musing on Kira's past as well as his father's sad life and suicide.
"I guess it's different for people whose fathers didn't commit suicide, but if yours did, then he's probably a fairly tragic figure in your memory...
"That familial memory that shapes who you are.
"That's how it always was for me. My father was legendary and tragic and sad... all at one time.
"And if I had to pick one word that described him best, it would've been a tie between "lonely" and "isolated".
Dylan has just described himself, and little wonder: "That familial memory that shapes who you are."
He's far from alone but lonely instead, isolated inside his own head. So often there are moments of hope that he will be able to free himself from the shackles of his pragmatic secrecy, this solitary existence, and steer freely away from the desperate trajectory which he has found himself locked on.
One of those is where we came in and he realises that "We stop noticing our miracles." Yet it's these very preoccupations which prevent Dylan from fully engaging and actually existing inside the moment, and those moments of hope do not last long.
All of that is conveyed in the art: in the cinema, for example, with Kira beaming while Dylan sits dead-faced, obsessing over his predicament. And that's after his supposed satori.
Thanks to Phillips and Breitweiser, Dylan is surrounded by so much arboreal beauty which he singularly fails to notice - even as he's strolling through Central Park with the love of his life, lit bright with laughter, which was formerly all that he craved - and it will only become more pronounced in the next volume.
It's not just that he fails to notice it, either: it is that he is entirely removed from its life-affirming balm by his inner demons - the psychotic shit that's going on his head - and by the very real danger that surrounds them both. That Kira is oblivious to the danger (because Dylan has repeatedly refused to communicate for fear of blurting out the rest) makes the gap between them loom even larger. He has built the proverbial brick wall.
Next volume: Dylan attempts to break down the brick wall down and in so doing, finds it built even higher.
Oh, wait.... The shooty bits...? Knock yourself out. Non-consecutive pages, mind, but Lord, how I love Sean Phillips gunfire.
Parenthetically, there's a very funny sequence in which a Russian courier clumsily attempts to flirt with a barmaid who may well be gay by solemnly impressing upon her the virtues not of Charles Portis's novel 'True Grit' (which is a tremendously compelling narrative told by a fourteen-year-old girl of exceptional fortitude), but of its cinematic adaptation which was a travesty, and in particular the manly magnificence of John Wayne's performance which... anyway. The sincerity on that man's face!
For far, far more (gunfire, plus talk about 3-tier grids, full-bleed art, immersion and cleverly colour-coded displacement) please see prior reviews of KILL OR BE KILLED. Thanks!