Subway Shorts – Kill Or Be Killed 20

One of my favorite books of the last two years comes to a conclusion, but the protagonist died at the end of the last issue! Beware, SPOILERS AHEAD!

Kill Or Be Killed 20
Written by Ed Burbaker 
Art by Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser 

Dylan had a pretty violent confrontation with the Russians in the LAST ISSUE, which ended with Dylan telling the readers that he was dead. He was shot in the chest by a Russian who was left outside to keep the car running. Things take a turn for the better as we open the final issue, though.

Dylan runs through what happened after he got out of the hospital for the audience – he and Kira get together, he gains a friend in the cop who tried to arrest him and they work together to take down dirty cops that are escaping justice. He keeps killing, though the demon is a thing of the past.

Despite surviving yet another near-death experience, Dylan doesn’t have any revelations about how great life can be and how it should be cherished. He expresses happiness to be alive, sure, but he pretty much admits the world is unjust, making what he does necessary. He makes a happy little life for himself, a neat little bow placed upon a troubling tale of either demonic interference or mental instability.

Of course, life doesn’t work that way. And despite telling a story about a guy being forced to kill bad guys to keep a demon from claiming his soul, Brubaker’s and Phillips’ work is grounded in reality, from the interactions between characters to the amazing New York City scenery.

It’s a nice little psych-out, though not entirely unexpected because, as was already said, Dylan’s life working out so he could live a nice, happy existence was just a little too pat. Getting a brief moment of hope that things end well for Dylan gives Brubaker and Phillips the opportunity to give one more emotional gut punch to the reader. It also fit the idea of Dylan as an unreliable narrator that was played up frequently over the course of the series.

The true ending of the story – which I wouldn’t dare give away here – leaves things open-ended, to allow for the creative team to come back and revisit the world if they eventually see fit, like they’re doing with THE FADE OUT later this year. I wouldn’t mind seeing it. I loved the world they crafted and hate the idea that there are no more stories coming out of it. I’m definitely sad to see KILL OR BE KILLED go.