By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
It was clear enough that Dylan’s method for first round of killings wasn’t sustainable. We understand that in a practical sense — his sloppiness had landed him in brushes with both the Russian Mob and the NYPD, both of which seemed to be edging ever closer to figuring out who was behind these attacks — but I also mean it terms of Dylan’s psyche: the more his life was mired in guilt and paranoia, the less it seemed like he would risk so much to protect it. Or, perhaps more importantly, the less we could relate to his desire to protect it. This series regularly places Dyaln at the edge of relatability, but creators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are smart to pull Dylan back a bit in this issue, renewing his lease on life before plunging him headlong into a one-man war against the Russian Mob.
As ever, this issue chronicles the little procedural details (and thought processes) as Dylan inevitably escalates the situation. But for me, the real heart of this issue — the thing that makes it tick — is that Dylan’s life is almost normal, otherwise.
There’s no mention of killing, or demons, or getting caught — this is just a kid having a good night out with the girl that he likes. It’s enough to give Dylan (and us) hope for his future…which brings us back to the fact the the Russian Mob is apparently still looking for him.
Dylan manages some pretty stellar detective work, tricking a stripper into giving up the location of a Russian brothel, which leads him slowly up the chain of command until he’s reasonably certain he has the head of the organization in his sights. It seems the Russians have underestimated the patience and resourcefulness of someone desperate to stay alive. Dylan’s info gives him the drop on Tito, a lieutenant in the organization that he squeezes for info, who reveals that Bogdan was the boss’s cousin, so they won’t stop coming for Dylan.
Being forced to fight for his life is familiar territory for Dylan — the series is called Kill or be Killed, after all — but now the threat is undeniably real. Moreover, he has a whole new life worth fighting for. Fortunately, he also has the practice to truly defend himself, and he seems to continue to be a few steps ahead of the Russians. They’ll probably tighten their game up soon (Dylan mentions how sloppy they are in their confidence), but Dylan may just be able to enact his plan before that.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
Ultimately, I think a big part of what makes both halves of this issue work is the size. Brubaker never goes large, he goes intimate. Goes deep. Realises that there is more to something ordinary like walking the streets, than there is with some epic piece of love. Just as the elements with the Russians is best treated as a series of minor moves. This is the sort of stuff that sells the reality, makes it feel true so that we understand exactly why everything matters
In fact, my favourite part of this issue is how Philips draws Dylan in the back seat of the car. He never looks comfortable, and what often could look badass instead looks awkward. There is no glory, just uncomfortable action