We return to the world of Killadelphia with the second issue. The issue continues the “Sins of the Father” arc, with a story titled “Death, My Sweet Savior.” The introduction of the series proved outstanding, but the second issue can be the hardest one of all to get right. So are writer Rodney Barnes, illustrator Jason Shawn Alexander, and colorist Luis Nct up to the task?
The pacing of Killadelphia really accelerates with this second issue. For the most part, this works. Story threads are quickly established and many players are introduced. It’s not all that tough to track, really. My concern is that sometimes the pacing feels a bit too rapid here. That is more a problem with the comic book medium, however. While I would appreciate a slow-burn issue of the Sangsters coming to terms with the fact that James Sr. is a vampire, we just do not have that sort of time in comics. So we are quickly brought up to speed and the status quo of having a vampire dad on the case.
Again, despite my misgivings on pacing, it works. I’m not going to hold anything against Rodney Barnes because he is tailoring the story to the necessary expectations of a comic book audience. Though, would totally love to see an extended edition of Killadelphia when it is collected. Issue two has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and it is remarkable just how deftly this is handled.
I still wish some of this material had some room to breathe, though.
An Expanding Cast
What I enjoyed most about this second installment is getting to know some of our vampiric players: Tevin, Brittany, John, and James Sr. Tevin serves as the heart of the issue. If James Jr serves as our anchor in the human world, then Tevin is quickly established as our anchor in the vampire world. Tevin’s sequences that open and close the issue establish emotional stakes and paint him as just different enough from most of the other vampires present.
Brittany is the jaded vampire child who is cruel, angry, and vengeful. I am reminded of Lestat’s “daughter” Claudia from Interview with a Vampire. When I say that Brittany is a character I have seen before, that is not to belittle what Barnes is going for. Quite the opposite. Brittany is doing necessary work to muddy the waters and make the vampiric perspective one of pragmatic, community action. Brittany is the awakened girl doing what needs to be done.
Ultimately, perhaps the biggest theme I am picking up here is the pull of family across human and vampire lines, and I really like that. We have that with the vampiric John Adams, as the progenitor of the vampiric band, and James Sr, as our hybrid. This theme is likely to develop in a big way.
Jason Shawn Alexander’s art continues to shine in this issue. There is a continually wonderful interplay in the composition using light and shadow. Sometimes with heavily shadowed panels and forms, there is a risk of actions being unclear, but that is not the case here. Tevin’s “floating,” for example, is given a panel of emphasis to set up the floating, sure. But what is most important is that Alexander does a good job, in a heavily shadowed panel, showing Tevin’s feet are several inches off the ground.
The inking continues to be a strong point as well. The book continues to display a necessary grittiness that fits the subject matter, and I began to take notice of forms breaking and dissolving throughout the issue. James Jr’s conversation in the morgue with Jose, for example, features a panel with James’s head sort of dissolving into the background, and Jose being scratched over with white. Other panels feature the usage of screen toning, or characters fading off into messy scratches of ink. The book has a texture to it which proves fascinating. Luis Nct, again, does strong work with the coloring. I am really enjoying the usage of shades of red in the vampiric moments.
One element that I am enjoying about Alexander’s art is that I can catch glimpses of certain people as models for characters. That’s not a bad thing, more of a nice easter egg. I’m not entirely confident in all my observations. But I am confident enough to suggest that actor Phil Morris served as a model for James Sr. It peeks through pretty often and is a pretty great job of “casting” in the comic. I’ll try my best to see who else I see. Though maybe we could just ask the creative team in the future?
The second issue of a new series is often the most challenging one to make work. The first issue has to hook a reader, which is easy enough. But the second issue has to convince the reader that the initial hook is not just a fluke or gimmick. Situations need to immediately complicated while also establishing a sort of baseline for the series. Killadelphia #2 definitely meets that second issue challenge.(4.5 / 5)