(Almost) Normalizing the Enemy in Outcast 31

by Drew Baumgartner

Outcast 31

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Get back to work.

Gus Fring, “Box Cutter”

Is there any scene in modern television more gripping than Gus Fring slowly changing out of his street clothes, unexpectedly slashing the throat of one of his loyalest employees, then changing back, as calmly as before? It’s a shocking show of force from a character that had mostly distinguished himself for his almost quaint professional decorum. He was a drug lord, sure, but he treated it as a kind of regular day job, fully compartmentalized from his familiarly domestic home life. In many ways, Rowland Tusk feels cast in that same mold, separating his home life from his more sinister occupation, and largely keeping his hands clean until — suddenly — he needs to get his hands dirty. Continue reading

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Shifting Motives in Kill Or Be Killed 13

By Drew Baumgartner

Kill or be Killed 13

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

This time, it’s personal.

Tagline, Jaws: The Revenge

It’s easy to deride “this time, it’s personal” — even without the association with the fourth Jaws movie, the sentiment has always carried with it a kind of self-parody. Or, I should say: that particular articulation of the sentiment has always felt that way. But the notion of a narrative escalating because of personal stakes is essential to virtually all drama (though, admittedly, not every drama has an impersonal/personal threshold that needs to be crossed). Which makes the implied sneer that goes with saying “this time, it’s personal” somewhat unfortunate — otherwise, it would be the perfect way to express Dylan’s newfound motivation for his war on the Russian Mafia. Continue reading

Giving Dylan a Life Worth Fighting For in Kill Or Be Killed 12

By Drew Baumgartner

Kill or be Killed 12

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. Continue reading

A Study in War Preparations in Outcast 30

by Drew Baumgartner

Outcast 30

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

It’s easy to feel optimistic at the start of Outcast 30 — Simon and Kyle have just discovered a new Outcast, Daphne, and they all seem stronger than ever. Or, they will be, but right now they’re exhausted after clearing out a huge safehouse for the merge (or the possessed — we need something to call these antagonists). There’s a bit of tension as Kyle has to convince his family to take in a complete stranger, but even the resolution of that is played for maximum hopefulness, as both Simon and Amber comment on how much stronger they feel in Daphne’s presence. It’s almost enough to feel like they might be in a position of strength — especially after the way last month’s issue ended. Continue reading

When the Threats Get Personal, So Does The Violence in Kill Or Be Killed 11

By Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There are different levels of violence in murder, right? I mean, there’s a different intensity to pressing a button and a bomb dropping on a target versus bayonetting someone in the ribs. The first allows one to remain detached, while the other forces the attacker to be up close and personal. While the result is effectively the same — the death of another human being — the latter’s level of “personal” really makes a difference. In Kill or be Killed, we’ve seen Dylan murder, but it’s been clumsy, almost accidental, in spite his intentions; however, we see in issue eleven a new level to Dylan’s commitment to violence, one which honestly took me aback. Continue reading

Kill Or Be Killed 10: Discussion

By Ryan Desaulniers and Drew Baumgartner

Kill or Be Killed 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ryan D: Maybe you were one of those people, like I was, who trudged through all six seasons of the TV series LOST, debating what was really going on underneath the framework narrative, listening to countless fan theories and devising your own. Perhaps the most popular of these theories was that the characters in the show were all in Purgatory, which show-runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse refuted until they were blue in the face. The tricky thing about fan theories, though, is that when the finale of the series did include a narrative reveal revolving around a state of limbo, many audience members felt disappointed and off-put. They had assumed and hoped that the creators would have devised a finish more surprising than what every Joe and Jill had guessed back in season one, and that the clues given to support this ending were feints and decoys, not the actual resolution. In a similar way, the creative team of Kill or Be Killed, in its tenth issue, confronts the fan theory which has been on everyone’s mind since the first issue: the demonic force which serves as a catalyst for Dylan’s violent turn might by a by-product of a mental condition. While some readers might be anxious about exploring the most obvious of possible explanations of Dylan’s actions, the deftness of writer Ed Brubaker and his visual team of Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser keeps this pseudo-reveal exciting and the narrative fascinating. Continue reading

Kill Or Be Killed 9

Alternating Currents: Kill or Be Killed 9, Drew and Ryan D

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Kill Or Be Killed 9, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

The best-laid plans of mice and men
Often go awry

Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Drew: I use this epigraph a lot on this site. It’s an appealing quote, both because of its sentiment and its popularity (bastardized “translations” to English aside), but also because plans going wrong is such a ubiquitous source of drama. We’ve all had something fall apart in spite of our best efforts, which makes seeing it in fiction tragically relatable, even if our plans (and how they go wrong) are more banal than we might encounter in fiction. It’s probably a bit too generous to say that Dylan’s plans were ever the “best-laid,” but we still recognize the panic that comes when they go awry. This issue pushes him ever closer to completely losing control, though he manages to just barely hang on. Continue reading

Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 5/3/17

Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, we discuss Extremity 3, Faith 11, Outcast 27, Shipwreck 4, and Star Wars: Poe Dameron 14. Also, we discussed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 69 on Friday, and will be discussing Pestilence 1 on Wednesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS. Continue reading

Outcast 26

Alternating Currents: Outcast 26, Ryan and Drew

Today, Ryan D. and Drew are discussing Outcast 26, originally released March 29th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Ryan D: If you are writing a serialized work of fiction — especially one which you plan to keep going for an extended period of time — then you must ask yourself: how do I release information to my audience? Questions proposed by the initial thesis of a work (i.e. “why would a man dress up like a bat to fight crime?”) need to be answered eventually for the readers’ intellectual illumination; however, if you answer these questions too quickly without supplying new ones (i.e. “what happens when this bat vigilante tries to take on an apprentice?”), then there’s no way your story can go for more than a few chapters. In Outcast 26, Robert Kirkman, who has written at this point 165 issues of his most commercially successful series The Walking Dead, again proves his ability to sustain an interesting initial concept by supplying the audience with nourishing answers before shifting the questions in a way which makes me keen for more. Continue reading

Kill Or Be Killed 5

kill-or-be-killed-5Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Kill Or Be Killed 5, originally released January 18th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

A bad workman always blames his tools.

Traditional

Drew: People don’t like to accept responsibility for their failures. If there’s anything else that can take the blame, it probably will. Of course, there’s always something that can take the blame — even absent tools, we can blame vague forces like “office politics” for holding us back. Indeed, when there are no more tangible forces to pin our failures on, we’ll will sooner make up concepts like fate than hold ourselves accountable. As with any tool blaming, that equation is flipped when things are going well — our successes aren’t the result of outside forces or inanimate objects, but our own effort and ingenuity. Taken to the extreme, that illusion can utterly disorient our ability to judge our own actions; if we can effectively do no wrong the very notion of “wrong” loses all meaning. This is the precipice Dylan finds himself on in Kill Or Be Killed 5, as he attempts to reconcile his actions with his own sense of morality. Continue reading