Moral Ambiguity Becomes Entertaining Through Murder

Our Story Thus Far features a comic series that hasn’t completed its current story-arc, but we couldn’t wait to write about it because it’s so good.


kill-or-be-killed-our-story-coverKill or be Killed #3

Written By: Ed Brubaker
Art By: Elizabeth Breitweiser & Sean Phillips
Published: October 12, 2016 by Image Comics

There’s something about noir style stories that intrigues me. I’m not sure if it’s the insight we often get through the internal monologue, or just the pace and development of that style. Either way, noir, or noir-esque stories are highly entertaining to me, and more than a little captivating. There’s a darkness in that genre that permeates nearly everything, however in that darkness there’s a sense of justification. As though the crime and the hunt for justice are intertwined so closely that one justifies the other. The moral ambiguity of it all just draws me into the story every single time. Kill or be Killed nails this aspect so cleanly, and so precisely that I feel like there was no chance for me to dislike this story. Kill or be Killed is doing such a great job at developing this idea that maybe committing crime for the right reasons isn’t actually crime, or at the very least, it becomes acceptable.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this story, our basic premise is that the main character, Dylan, ends up having his life bound to a demon…or, he’s just crazy. Either way however, this demon tells Dylan he must kill someone, anyone, once a month or his life will be forfeit and endless torture for all of eternity, blah blah blah. You know the deal, demons love that eternity torture stuff. Anyway, Dylan obviously thinks he might be crazy, so the demon gives him a taste of reality and basically beats the crap out of him, then starts the monthly murder clock giving Dylan thirty days to murder someone. Fast-forward to the last day and Dylan is left with a serious decision to make.

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While that’s a quick summary of issue one, which I wrote about here, what progresses over issue two and three completely expands on this idea that Dylan is quite possibly crazy, but who cares because his murdering is actually producing good. Sure, that sounds weird, and we are loosely using the word “good” here, however his one and only murder thus far turns out to be relieving because the dude was the worst kind of bad there is. Did Dylan know that at the time? Well, no, but he had a good guess, and when a demon who beat the crap out of you is looming to torture you forever, who has time to fully fact check anyway.

With that said you can start to see how well Brubaker’s exploring this idea of moral ambiguity. He has Dylan murdering, but only the worst kind of person, and it’s only being done with a self-preservation motivation behind it. He makes you feel like what Dylan is doing is wrong while simultaneously understandable, and in some cosmic moral scale, justifiable, even though it’s still murder.

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From the beginning of page one, issue one, to the last page is issue three we are pulled deeper and deeper into Dylan’s life, and all the garbage he’s dealing with. I honestly feel bad for Dylan. He doesn’t seem to be a jerk, he’s more than a little pleasant, sure he’s definitely passive and lets people take advantage of him, but it’s written so well that it becomes an endearing quality rather than an annoyance.

The most interesting aspect of this entire series thus far is the fact that we still aren’t sure whether the demon is real or not. There’s a seriously good chance all this is playing out in Dylan’s head, and that his excuses for what the demon did to him might have been reality creeping in rather than the cover up Dylan believes it to be.

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We get this moment in issue three where Dylan is dreaming and within this dream he has the ability to see into people’s secrets. He can sense what they’re hiding, and all the bad stuff they’re doing. As he walks the streets he tells himself that its almost like he’s invisible while everyone else is exposed. He passes by numerous people and each one has these labels telling of their worst actions: beats her children, secretly racist, tells nothing but lies. Dylan is literally able to see who’s the worst around him. At the end of this dream sequence, Dylan peers at himself in a window, and in a moment of silence he shoots his reflection and snaps awake.

All of this leads us, the readers, down that questionable path of whether or not this was the demon showing Dylan that he can find the worst to save himself, or that Dylan’s mind is showing him that no matter what others are doing he deserves death above all else. Now mix that in with the fact that we learned in issue one that Dylan has attempted suicide like a dozen times, and failed obviously, and we have this cocktail of psychosis wherein we the readers question what reality is and is not, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a noir story, ever.

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With this book only being on issue three, and issue four hitting next week, we get our conclusion of this first arc, and add in that everything is available digitally for maximum convenience, and what you have is zero reasons to not try this story out. If any of this sounds even the tiniest bit interesting to you, absolutely go pick it up. It’s better than I can even describe.

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