If Killstrike sounds like the name of an Image Comics character from the mid-90s, the resemblance is purely intentional. Max Bemis and Logan Faerber’s “Oh, Killstrike” #1 is an ode to all the countless violent and musclebound superheroes who had little more dimension than the size of their guns. This plethora of heroes and anti-heroes were loved by some and hated by others; Bemis’ central character Jared — a comic fan from that era who openly voices his disdain for this subgenre, yet still holds onto his collection of them — loves to hate them. Discovering that his old copy of “Killstrike” #1 could be worth a literal fortune, Jared finds a far bigger surprise when he visits Mom’s dusty attic.
Bemis gives the issue a strong start with Jared’s stark and astute observations about the evolution and irony of these kinds of characters, most notably how the collective attempt at the then-trendy sense of realism actually yielded some of the most unrealistic kinds of comic book superheroes. Bemis delivers this diatribe with a semi-surrealistic spin, with Faerber providing expectedly exaggerated but otherwise non-descript illustrations of these archetypes that supplement Jared’s narrative. As quickly as the issue heats up, it cools off, as Bemis tries to establish a dynamic between Jared and his wife that falls flat; there’s no chemistry or convincing connection between the two and all that the scene really succeeds in establishing is that Jared can kind of be a jerk.
It’s a forgivable lapse, at least for now, as the remainder of the issue largely focuses on a new dynamic: namely, that of Jared and the come-to-life incarnation of Killstrike. The transformation is effectively captured by Faerber over the course of a couple of pages, with a character who — in this case — literally jumps off the page. With a touch of Wolverine, Lobo, Deathblow and countless other influences mixed in, Faerber’s Killstrike is over the top and impossibly proportioned, just like the actual comic book characters that inspired his creation.
As the topic is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, Bemis plays up the rest of the issue mainly for laughs. The comedy is there, but the comic from this point on reads more like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Plot implausibilities abound; Killstrike seems oddly accepting of the fact that a mission of vengeance will enable him to return “home,” although no explanation is given for this — nor for his arrival, for that matter.
Faerber’s art has a crude, distorted look not unlike Jeff Lemire’s artwork; the cast is largely plain-looking and unassuming, although Faerber enables them all with caricature-like traits when called for. Colorist Juan Manuel TumburÃºs keeps things rather sedate, as though to emphasize that — while a four-color hero walks the real world — ours isn’t nearly as colorful as the one we all read about in comics.
“Oh, Killstrike” #1 speaks its mind regarding the image (pun intended) of many of the superhero comics from two decades ago, initially with some serious commentary and then with humor that largely succeeds.