Erik Killmonger, still years away from his return to Wakanda, finds himself getting more and more deeply entwined with the kill-for-hire world of Knight, King, and Rook, all of whom seek to curry favor with the legendary Kingpin of Crime by masterminding a kill of epic proportions. A hit so huge, it will take all four of them to pull it off.
The Kingpin wants a certain group of people dead, but theirs is not to reason why. It's just to get the job done. While the more seasoned mercenaries split hairs over the finer details of such an operation, the brash young rookie in their midst has other ideas:
King hesitantly goes for Erik's plan, but not without a caveat:
...After which, the hit goes down, although not quite so simply as had been supposed. There are quite a few other gunslingers there to protect the targets, but Killmonger and company win the day nonetheless.
After a short cooling-off period, King finds himself back in the presence of Wilson Fisk, who has an unusual proposal for the group. Fisk feels he has no need for multiple hitmen on his payroll, so if the group can kill the other one in his employ, the job will permanently be theirs. King balks, and realizes the group has been set up - but not before the second hitman reveals himself, and the bodies almost immediately start to fall!
Anger and arrogance are a potent mixture, but in Erik Killmonger’s formative years, they’re all he has to cling to. This story is essentially the tale of how he came to focus those two traits into making him the only man to defeat Black Panther in combat, and although this chapter feels less potent than issue one, it is nonetheless entertaining if you don’t think about the plot too hard, rendered with near-perfection by Juan Ferreyra. Take, for example, Killmonger and company’s assault on their targets. It’s beautifully rendered over the span of three double-page spreads, kinetic, suspenseful, and tautly choreographed:
The art feels fully-realized and completely confident. That comes, I believe, from Ferreyra both coloring and inking his own pencils. He’s an artist who’s poised to do some great things. Watch him. Here’s another glorious panel:
The complications in this issue’s execution arise from a blurriness of motivation. The way writer Bryan Hill writes King, he certainly doesn’t come across as a man who takes unreasonable chances; yet he’s willing to risk not only his livelihood but his life on Killmonger, a man whom he knows nothing about except that he’s angry and capable. In King’s own words, Killmonger’s anger can’t be the only thing he lives for and will someday get him killed – yet, he trusts him nonetheless because he wants to orchestrate the massive hit that will curry favor with the Kingpin. That short-sightedness belies everything we’ve learned so far about the character.
There’s also a problem with storytelling logistics. King states there has to be four of them because there are four targets, which indicates a one-for-one killing scenario. Yet when the foursome rush in and are attacked by a small army, it’s not treated like an aberration, which infers it was expected. Why, then, did it have to be four? Especially when one of the group, Risk, has a healing factor to help even the odds, and Killmonger is such an unknown quality? In an earlier scene, King makes it clear he doesn’t necessarily trust Killmonger to be anything other than angry, and in fact has no plan of his own until his young protege concocts one himself, which seems incongruous at best with the competent, wise manner in which King has been presented thus far. It honestly seems like the scenario was written the way it was because Hill needed to have a reason for Killmonger to get indirectly involved with the Kingpin, which is in and of itself far-fetched anyway. That doesn’t detract from the bravura technical aspects Ferreyra put into the art, but it does give me pause to wonder just how much thought Hill put into his plot.
King remains something of an unintentional enigma throughout. He immediately takes Erik under his wing, doling out advice and life lessons like some assassinating father figure. Erik doesn’t really seem to listen to anything this old man has to say, and isn’t shy about the fact that he’s using the group to get set up to kill Klaw (yet in the previous issue, he had no trouble finding Klaw on his own, so why does he need the group at all?). This should all be pretty obvious, yet it doesn’t deter King from trusting Killmonger with his life. There’s also a matter of Knight pitching woo toward a disinterested Killmonger, but since we know next to nothing about Knight just yet, it’s really just a plot point that doesn’t amount to anything. To be continued.
Killmonger takes a back seat this issue to a supporting character whose motivations are all over the place, which is disappointing after the first issue's focused and character-driven set-up. There are some decent character moments, but ultimately nothing that moves Killmonger's character forward any. If you turn your brain off where the plot is concerned it's a decent read, but I highly doubt that's what Hill had in mind. Juan Ferreyra's art is the main draw here, although this issue's cliffhanger could definitely provide the shot in the arm next issue needs to get the story back on track.
Killmonger #2 (of 5): Anger Like an Old Gun
Writing - 6/10
Storyline - 4/10
Art - 9/10
Color - 9.5/10
Cover Art - 8.5/10
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