REVIEW: ‘Killadelphia,’ Issue #2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Killadelphia

Killadelphia #2 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. After returning to his hometown of Philadelphia for his father’s funeral, Baltimore detective Jim Sangster Jr. discovered that ravenous vampires hunt the city streets freely, draining victims of their blood every night. Those who fall victim to the monsters become Vampires themselves, including Jim’s father James Sangster Sr. A detective for the PPD, James was killed by vampires while investigating the case.

Now, Jim and the newly vampiric James must work together to quell the undead and discover what secrets lay buried in the heart of Killadelphia.

In my review of issue number one, I called Killadelphia one of the strongest debuts in recent memory. Killadelphia #2 keeps that ball rolling, delivering another excellent horror experience. Alexander’s artwork, a high point for Killadelphia #1, remains as compelling as ever. I can’t get enough of this guy’s style. There’s a husky smokiness to this art, a textured grime and grit layered over each environment. Alexander’s style vacillates between near photo realism and broad stylized paint strokes. The best art in the issue blends both styles, best seen with Alexander’s gorgeous cover for the issue.

I also love the way Alexander visually communicates vampirism. In one scene, a young vampire appears almost as a living shadow. Heavy inks blot out most of the character’s features, while a corona of light erosion seems to blur all of the character’s edges. In other panels vampires project their own scratchily inked auras onto white backdrops. Alexander never overplays these effects, utilizing just enough visual flare to underline the tension of any scene. That attention to detail gives the series a lot of style points.

Another feather in Killadelphia #2′ s hat comes from Barns’ script. Over Killadelphia  two issues, Barns has walked a tight rope with the series tone. At times Barns writes the series with a deathly seriousness, grounding the series in Philadelphia’s history of drug epidemics and urban squalor.  When walking down the serious road, Barns writes with a cutting edge. For instance, one of Killadelphia #2 most gut wrenching scenes finds a young vampire tearfully offering to turn his sick grandmother.

Now under most writers that setup would be dramatic enough. But Barns goes farther, establishing with a few quick lines that the sick woman’s medical needs aren’t being met thanks to a shoddy public health system. Even a supernaturally immortal beings can’t stand against bureaucracy.  That extra level of detail brings the human drama of every scene to the forefront.

Killadelphia

The other dominant tone is Killadelphia? Good old fashioned pulp. This is still a comic about vampire hunting cops, after all. In between emotionally raw scenes Barns weaves in a pulpy plot that not only includes a vampire army, but none other than vampiric United States President John Addams. Philadelphia has a rich history with deep ties to the American Revolution. So, adding a fanged founding father to a Philly vampire epic makes some sense. But, well-researched reasons aside, blood sucking presidents are kind of silly no matter how you go about it. Even with Killadelphia’s emotional storybeats, the series still delivers the satisfying dumb fun of a pulpy vampire yarn.  Some transitions work better than others, but the overall narrative works.

Finding the balance between those two wildly different tones is no small task. Yet, Barns delivers in Killadelphia #2. Along with Jason Shawn Alexander’s superb art, Barns emerging narrative promises a twisted journey through Philadelphia’s hidden heart. It’s not clear just how seriously Killadelphia wants readers to take its history fueled conspiracy. With the threat of President John Adams looming large, it sure looks like Killadelphia  will be answering that question very soon.

Killadelphia #2
4.5

TL;DR

Barns delivers in Killadelphia #2. Along with Jason Shawn Alexander’s superb art, Barns emerging narrative promises a twisted journey through Philadelphia’s hidden heart.