Shortly after he and his wife Meryl welcome their first child into the world, Jared finds himself browsing online auction sites when he discovers that a terrible comic he owns has become incredibly rare. With bids starting at $100,000, Jared decides that there’s no time like the present to take a quick trip to Mom’s and retrieve the priceless piece of trash. We soon find out that Jared has somehow been betrayed by the comic book industry, and he feels that selling this terribly written comic to pay off his mortgage would be the ultimate revenge against the industry who wronged him.
Meryl is tense and upset at Jared’s willingness to abandon her and the baby for a long weekend, hinting at the fact that Jared himself had a distant father. Oblivious to her stress, Jared sets off to his mom’s house. After a brief time rooting around in the attic, Jared finds the priceless book! But everything changes when the title character, Killstrike extracts himself from the pages of his own comic.
Killstrike is a massive, shirtless, muscular man covered in large tattoos with a variety of weapons strapped across his body. He is described as being the “quintessential ’90s hero” who “makes Steven Seagal look like Stephen Hawking”. It is discovered that Killstrike will be unable to return to his comic book until he has completed a mission of vengeance, which is what he values most. Jared’s distant father is mentioned as a potential target for this quest of vengeance; thus, Jared and Killstrike further abandon Meryl in order to commence their quest to find Jared’s father. In the meantime, they encounter some interesting truths while rediscovering what they value most in life.
The comic is filled with many comic book tropes and pop culture references that are rather specific, but not too obscure. While many young readers may not remember the original “women in refrigerators” scene from the Green Lantern comic, they may be familiar with Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency series which has addressed this trope. While younger readers will have a different frame of cultural reference, they’re likely to recognize big names such as The Rock and Coolio. Similarly, if readers are familiar with Max Bemis or his band Say Anything, they’re likely to know Rivers Cuomo and his iconic glasses. Bemis skillfully writes in references that are enhancing rather than isolating, though it’s worth noting that the story reads just as well even if the references are not understood.
Killstrike’s character is so literal and well-meaning, you can’t help but smile at his antics. He is somewhat self aware that he is a comic book character, and this meta-fictional aspect adds to the enjoyment of the comic. Jared asks in frustration, “Don’t you even listen to yourself?” and Killstrike responds by pointing to a speech bubble within the panel and saying, “I see the dialogue bubbles but I can’t actually read, so no”. In contrast, our protagonist as described by Killstrike is “unremarkable on the surface but not without a certain charm”. Jared’s beard grows thicker as the story commences, reflecting a nonstop adventure that doesn’t leave time for shaving while simultaneously serving as a symbol of a journey into manhood, preparing him to be a responsible father.
The art style is immediately appealing, with a good sense of texture and overly expressive characters with exaggerated actions that keep the tone of the story lighthearted and fun. Each panel conveys a great sense of movement that flows smoothly across the page, keeping the story moving at a rather fast and playful pace. Like many popular comics these days, the covers’ color scheme focuses on blues, pinks, purples, and yellow. The comic itself uses a greater variety of colors that are somewhat less bold. Jared begins the story wearing reds, oranges, and greens, causing him to stand out in contrast to his surroundings. However, by the end of the story, his clothes shift to blues while his antagonists don red and orange shirts. In fact, his hero’s garb in the climactic end scene is dull and unparticular, showing a sense of unity and acceptance with his surroundings rather than the bitter distrust he displayed at the beginning of the story.
When you open Oh, Killstrike, there’s an immediate positive energy that pulls you in. This book would be highly appealing to fans of pop punk music and the comic Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory. There’s a reassuring sense that it’s not going to be a secret tearjerker thanks to its lighthearted tone. Oh, Killstrike is neither challenging to read nor mind-blowing in its greatness, but it is a fun and quick read that is sure to resonate with teens and young fathers or fathers-to-be.
Librarians should be aware of the following content warnings if they choose to add this book to their collections: references to and discussion of sex, implied nudity, mild violence (punching, kicking), implication of [fictional] rape, and mild swearing.
by Max Bemis
Art by Logan Faerber
Boom Studios, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 12+