Kill or be Killed 17: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Kill or be Killed 17

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

Don’t bury the lede.

Journalism, Traditional

Drew: Is journalism the opposite of storytelling? Maybe these terms are too sticky to parse, but it’s interesting to me that one of the cardinal rules of journalism — putting the most dramatic part of the story at the start of the article — is essentially the opposite of the basic narrative structure, where the climax arrives very close to the end of a story. Actually, the difference may lie less in where the “climax” (for lack of a better word) occurs as where it’s allowed to occur. While narratives tend to have the climax in their final act, it is by no means as hard-and-fast a rule as “don’t bury the lede,” and precisely where the climax fits in that final act is decidedly more flexible than absolutely, positively occurring in the first paragraph. It’s a simple matter of the purposes of these art forms — the kinds of tricks storytellers use to surprise us or keep us in suspense are totally inappropriate in a newspaper article designed to inform us of what happened where. And it’s those wrinkles in form, unique to storytelling, that make Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Kill or be Killed 17 such a delight. Continue reading

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Relishing the Details in Outcast 33

by Drew Baumgartner

Outcast 30

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

One of the most distinctive stylistic choices of Outcast has always been its use of small insert shots, inset into larger panels. Early in the series, those inserts were largely used to capture small scene details and gestures, but as the cast has grown, they’ve increasingly focused on faces, offering us the emotional state of several characters at a glance — especially those who might not be actively participating in the action/conversation of the scene. We might understand that as reflective of Kyle’s own shift in priorities, focusing less on the textural trappings of his life and more on the people he loves, but the effect is a series that now has an audience surrogate on virtually every page, reflecting our own shock and horror back at us. Continue reading

Smooth Transitions in Kill Or Be Killed 15

By Ryan Desaulniers

Kill or be Killed 15

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

Despite all of the guessing and theorizing which this title forces upon the audience in regards to the narrative, after fourteen issues of KOBK, it was safe to say that readers know at least a little about the world and its rules. We know there’s a haunted young man who lives in New York who spends time with his on-again/off-again girlfriend who also runs off to murder mob bosses in town. We’re used to some big swerves at the end of any given issue regarding the nature of the Beast that plagues Dylan by now, too. What caught me completely by surprise in issue fifteen, however, is the transition out of New York City, and how cleanly the creative team handled it. Continue reading

Outcast 32 Gets Procedural

by Drew Baumgartner

Outcast 32

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

The storytelling of Outcast has always been incremental. Problems are slowly introduced, relationships slowly change, and the series slowly develops over dozens of issues. It’s a storytelling mode that will be familiar to anyone who’s read any of Robert Kirman’s other 100-issue-plus series, but in Outcast, that deliberate pacing is combined with perspectives on both sides of the war between light and dark, lending the series a procedural element that I would argue is unique in Kirman’s oeuvre. Those procedural elements come to the fore in issue 32, as both sides adjust to their new normals. Continue reading

Kill or be Killed 14: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Kill or be Killed 14

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

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Anton Chekhov

Drew: I feel like we tend to talk about Chekhov’s Gun backwards: we often frame it as “a gun introduced in the first chapter must go off in the third,” but that “must” kind of scrambles the causality — guns don’t go off in narratives because they’ve been introduced; they’re introduced because they need to go off. If the gun doesn’t go off, it’s as irrelevant to the narrative as the rings of Saturn. It’s an essential concept for narrative efficiency, but my awareness of it undoubtedly influences my own understanding of what a story is. While a child may think of a story as “everything that happens to the characters between the beginning and the end” (I know I did), anyone familiar with Chekov’s Gun must recognize that a good story is, at the very least least, pared down to only the relevant events transpiring between the beginning and the end. It’s a notion that assures us that whatever we’re reading is important, which in turn provides some clues about what the narrative finds important. 14 issues in, one might think that we’d already have a great handle on what Kill or be Killed finds important, but this issue managed to surprise me with the details it chose to focus on. Continue reading

(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

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