‘Killadelphia: Volume 1’ - Trade Paperback Review

Watercolor is generally seen in pastels, an art form more suited for calming meadows than gritty noir horror, but Killadelphia blows that notion right out of the water.

The style reminds me of 30 Days of Night, but it has a gritty, old-school noir film filter drawn over it. The characters in this comic are masterfully drawn in a much more realistic style in closeups and fade into a strange, dreamlike abstraction depending on the scene. The quick changes between extreme detail and obscure dreaminess create a fantastic tension that pulls the reader along with art alone.  A special shout out has to be made for the facial expressions throughout the book; though slightly exaggerated in places, they are, by far, my favorite panels. They seem so real.

The paneling straddles the line between traditional and experimental. Some of the scenes using copious white space and unconventional panels, while others follow a procedural formula. There are a few times where the lettering becomes handwriting and unwieldy. I admire the risk, but when I have to stop and re-read a narration panel for the third time, I get a little lost and it kills the pacing of the book.

The plot is interesting. The idea of a founding father coming back to raise an undead army in a revolutionary city is quite curious. It becomes ever more interesting when you consider that the founding fathers were some of the smartest men of their day and age, and that facing one in a battle of wits requires a special kind of crazy. Moreover, the story deals with some of the more complex racial issues facing the world today, but never feels pedantic. It uses its fantastical setting to create an environment for these ideas to breathe.

The people in the book feel alive. The main character’s struggle in chapter one of hating his father, and yet needing closure to his death, feels like something palpable and reaslistic. The book also is a wonderful work of representational fiction. Most of the characters are African American.  The cast is incredibly diverse in personality and lifestyle, and the characters all have flaws and are human at their core. The book has a nice balance of women in different roles, as well. It makes a statement by not making a big deal of any of this, and is more powerful for it.

As for any bonus features of the trade, it’s got a great section of reference photos paired with initial sketches of the comic, so it's a nice extra for waiting to pick up the trade paperback.

In an age of division, this comic explores interesting racial ideas through a unique lens with beautiful art and real characters. Though mature, gory, and a little sexualized, I’d recommend it to anyone with a love of history and/or vampires.

Creative Team: Rodney Barnes (writer), Jason Shawn Alexander (artist), Luis Nct (colorist), Marshall Dillon (letterer) Greg Tumbarello (Editor)
Publisher:  Image Comics
Audience:  Mature readers
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