Kill A Man Part 1 is published by AfterShock Comics, written by Steve Orlando, and Phillip K. Johnson, with art by Alec Morgan, and letters by Jim Campbell. The story centers around a young MMA fighter who must deal with the weight of being outed in public as the first officially gay fighter.
The series opens up with an MMA fight set in 1998 between two Philadelphia natives; DJ Bellyi, and Xavier Mayne. Bellyi is killed in the fight due to Mayne unleashing a devastating flurry of blows after being taunted with homophobic slang throughout the bout. Now, in the current timeline, the son of DJ Bellyi, James, must carve out his own reputation as the MMA’s greatest fighter, and without the experience of his Father in his corner. Life for James is more complicated. While he is touted as an up and coming title contender, he is also battling with his own personal life as he fights to keep his homosexuality a secret.
James quickly learns that rising stars have no places for secrets, and during a press conference he is publicly outed. Abandoned, and rejected, Bellyi has nowhere else to turn but to the only other gay fighter he’s ever known as he faces an insurmountable challenge to become the world champion.
Orlando and Johnson have created a winning formula with the series Kill A Man Part 1. James is faced with some incredibly difficult options. Be the best in his professional arena, or be true to himself and own his sexuality. The latter, may prove to be more difficult than conceived, as Johnson and Orlando reflect the real-life struggles of openly gay men in sports.
The intrigue of the story is in its fallen star narrative. James is solely focused on his rise to the top, and before his outing, the implications are that MMA sees him as their poster boy, the future champion. With James now left out in the cold, and no one in his corner, there’s a compulsion to root for him even more. The classic underdog story, that no matter how cliché, still grips us.
The ending of the issue is particularly difficult gut-wrenching when James realizes the gravity of the situation and that his only option may be to find the figurative ghost of fighter from long ago. The tension, pain, and sorrow that Johnson and Orlando have created really jumps from the page, and it’s incredibly impressive of the tangled web of story arcs they’ve been to weave into a 58-page issue.
The art by Morgan is in part impressive, and yet frustrating. For the majority of the issue the illustrations themselves are brilliant, and really detailed. The color palette utilized shows the depth of thought as the tones match the emotion and feeling or the scenes. During the initial panels of the issue a deep fury red covers the panels as Bellyi Snr. and Mayne lock horns in their bout. Later, in the funeral, the employed use of black and gray to convey mourning and sadness. Morgan creates tangible emotion with the use of a monopalette.
The frustration of the illustrations is at times with the facial detail looking overly simplistic and bereft or notable definition. It is not a rampant issue and thus becomes a problem of consistency with the issue. It’s a minor complaint, but something like this could really serve to elevate this comic to a gold star standard.
The lettering from Campbell is at a lovely level of quality. He particularly shines during the fight sequences and when using onomatopoeia, that I swear as I read I could hear the sound rattle in my head.
Overall, this was a brilliant opening to the story of Kill A Man. Johnson, and Orlando have created a story that highlights the unscrupulous obstacles that stand in the way of gay professional fighters. I wait on bated breath for part two!
Kill A Man Part 1 is available in the fall wherever comic books are sold.
Kill A Man Part 1
Overall, this was a brilliant opening to the story of Kill A Man. Johnson, and Orlando have created a story that highlights the unscrupulous obstacles that stand in the way of gay professional fighters. I wait on baited breath for part two!
Aaron is a contributing writer at But Why Tho, serving as a reviewer for TV and Film. He is also the co-host and social media manager of the Nerds Social Club podcast.
Hailing originally from England, and after some lengthy questing, he’s currently set up shop in Pennsylvania. He spends his days reading comics, podcasting, and being attacked by his small offspring.