Kill Them All by Kyle Starks graphic novel review

Kyle Starks’ Kill Them All is a high-octane tribute to the joys of action movies

Originally Kickstarter-funded and self-published in black-and-white, Kyle Starks’ Kill Them All – a gloriously overblown tribute to action cinema – has now been reissued by Oni Press, sporting an exuberant colour job from Luigi Anderson. A spiritual successor to Starks’ Eisner award-nominated series Sexcastle, Kill Them All sets up a two-pronged narrative before letting all hell break loose. Disgraced Detective Iruka is following a tip that a clutch of crime bosses are meeting downtown; meanwhile, former assassin the Tiger’s Daughter is set up by her low-level crook boyfriend, and is now out for revenge.

Both heroes, weapons in tow, converge on Raquin Plaza, and must fight their way to the top floor through assorted guards, henchmen and office drones in pursuit of justice and retribution. Essentially, it’s Die Hard in reverse, with shades of Double Dragon – and there are a lot of goons standing between our two protagonists and the final boss.

Readers of his recent run on the Rick & Morty tie-in series will know that Starks has a flair for comic dialogue, and he certainly knows his way around a one-liner. All joking aside, though, Starks is a wholly proficient, dynamic action artist, crafting sequences that play just as well as affectionate tributes as cocked-eyebrow parody.

At times, reading Kill Them All is like peeking over the shoulder of an overexcited schoolkid, furiously sketching in the margins of their exercise book, cramming in nods to all shades of the genre rainbow, from buddy-cop cliches to John Woo acrobatics. But while Starks’ enthusiasm is uninhibited, his work is far from undisciplined. Even at their most wild, his compositions are wrestled into strict panel grids and sleek page layouts. It’s this craft, used in service of sugar-high spectacle, that helps make Kill Them All an unexpectedly exhilarating and satisfying read.