[Major spoilers for the comic book series Kill or Be Killed follow. You should probably go read it, it’s been called one of the best comics of last year.]
I once read (it may have been in an Anne Rule book) that with serial killers it’s the first kill that “counts.” That is to say, you kill (for example) your horrible mother, and it is the most liberating and exciting experience of your entire life. The world seems dull and colorless afterwards, and so you start killing people who resemble your mother in a desperate attempt to catch that dragon again. Presumably Ted Bundy always killed dark-haired, center-parted girls because his first kill was a dark-haired, center-parted girl, a girl he loved, perhaps; all the other victims were simulacra of the first victim, all his other kills were reenactments of the first kill.
Think of Hannibal Lector telling Clarice Starling that the kills are desperately random, like the elaborations of a bad liar.
I have no idea if any of this is true, of course. I do not think we should get our information from Thomas Harris novels, or from my hazy memory of Anne Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me. But although these factoids are not really valid for understanding the world, they may well be valid for understanding a comic book. We’re talking about Kill or Be Killed here. That is to say, I’m talking about Kill or Be Killed. I have a theory.
Narrator Dylan has his life saved by a Merk-style demon who lets him live as long as he agrees to kill bad guys—that’s the premise of the series.
But with issue #7 (spoilers, I warned you) it looks like this is less a series about a vigilante and more about a delusional serial killer—Dylan is off his meds and is just hallucinating that darn demon. So why did Dylan’s subconscious come up with this hallucination? Why does he have to kill people?
We know that to find the answer we have to look at his first kill; and, indeed, his first kill is someone close to Dylan: Mark, the child-molesting brother of Dylan’s childhood friend, Teddy. Teddy, unable to deal with being molested by his brother, spirals downward into drugs and madness and dies. Dylan makes sure the brother (clearly, we later learn, a serial child molester) pays for his crime.
Now let’s see, did anyone else in this story spiral downward into drugs and madness?
This is my theory: that Dylan was also molested by Mark. He buries the memory deep down (while admitting that “you can’t really forget something like that all the way”); it burbles up on occasion, fueling Dylan’s occasional suicide attempts.
Dylan’s subconscious finally tries dealing with the problem by killing Mark; but of course he can’t bring himself to admit why he has killed Mark. The other people he kills are the elaborations of a bad liar, a desperate attempt to convince himself that Mark was just another notch on his gun (even his name helps; an anonymous mark for the killer). Admitting that Mark was a personal kill would force Dylan to have to come to grips with his own tortured past.
Easier to keep killing people.
Anyway, that’s my theory. Time will tell.