Blood runs in the streets of Philadelphia. In the city of brotherly love, the dead walk among us. Killadelphia #1 is written by Rodney Barns, illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander, with colors by Luis NCT, lettering by Marshall Dillon, and is published by Image Comics.
Baltimore cop Jim Sangster Jr. spent years trying to get out from under his father’s shadow. But when his father, detective James Sangster Sr., was murdered in the line of duty, Jim finds himself once again walking the mean streets of Philadelphia.
With his father dead, he thought that he was finally done with the man he hated. But in the process of burying his father in the ground, Jim unearths a darker mystery when he finds Sangster Sr.’s casebook. Inside lies a story too fantastic to believe, one where Philadelphia’s streets bloom with corpses, each drained of blood and covered in human bite marks. It’s impossible, clearly the ravings of an unhinged mind. Yet as Jim investigates his father’s final case, he finds himself caught up in the darkness that is Killadelphia.
There’s a rawness to this book, a gritty atmosphere of urban squalor, and grimy history that really sets it apart. Much of that stems from Alexander’s brilliant artwork. I first saw Alexander’s work in the pages of Spawn. His textured ethereal style was a perfect meld of supernatural menace and gritty noir sensibility. With Killadelphia #1, Alexander’s macabre style makes every page feel like a warped frame from a nightmare noir painted on canvas. I absolutely love this style, which makes a sterile room in a police department as foreboding as a vampire’s den. Alexander’s paneling contributes to this as well, each page progressing with beautifully serpentine momentum.
Barnes matches Alexander’s horror noir energy with a supernatural story that reads more like a dark detective novel. Barnes’ ground his genre story in the very real world of Philadelphia. To pull this off, he doesn’t shy away from the darker stories within the city’s troubled history. As much as the book may be about Vampires, it’s also about that darkness.
The crack epidemic of the 90s and Philadelphia’s notorious housing projects cast a large shadow over the series, tying into the central mystery in ways yet to be explained. The book doesn’t take the material lightly either. Instead, it uses that dark history to flesh out its characters, letting their experience with the city inform their actions.
With only a few comics under his belt, most folks know Rodney Barnes for his work writing for television. With writing credits on The Boondocks, American Gods, Wu-tang: An American Saga, and Marvel’s Runaways, Barnes made a name for himself writing morally complex characters set against hostile urban landscapes. Killadelphia #1 offers no exception. The dueling narrators of James Sangster Jr. and Sr. set up a story of generational conflict and bad blood. It’s the sort of family drama that injects nitroglycerin into any narrative progression.
Killadelphia #1 stands as one of the strongest series debuts I’ve seen in a long time. Going by this first issue, you’d think that Barnes and Alexander were long-time collaborators. Barnes’s grounded prose style plays beautifully against Alexander’s ethereal art style. Together they create a singular vision of urban horror, one that feels way too real.
Killadelphia #1 stands as one of the strongest series debuts I’ve seen in a long time. Going by this first issue, you’d think that Barnes and Alexander were long-time collaborators.