Note: This is a review of the first half of Kill a Man.
While there’s no shortage of underdog sports stories, Kill A Man has some key differences that set it apart from other stories of its kind. Kill A Man tells the story of James Bellyi, a mixed martial arts competitor who, in the build-up to a title shot, is outed as being gay by his opponent. But if that wasn’t twisty enough for you, after being abandoned by his friends and family, Bellyi’s only hope of getting back in the game is to ask for the help of Xavier Mayne — a gay MMA veteran who just so happened to have killed James’ father in the ring twenty years earlier.
Kill A Man brings together two worlds that rarely cross paths in media, and in doing so deals with some very real issues in the world of sport. In a time when we’ve seen only a handful of openly LGBTQ+ competitors in combat sports, Kill A Man deals directly with potential effect coming out could have on someone’s career, particularly in a field where prejudice is still rampant.
Undoubtedly aided by the fact that all three members of the creative team are fans or practitioners of MMA, Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson have crafted a story that unfortunately does feel very real and believable. Orlando and Johnson take aspects from a long tradition of underdog sports stories, but create perhaps the first of its kind for both the LGBTQ+ and MMA community.
My only complaints towards the narrative would be that almost everyone in James’ world comes off as an enemy, and I’d like to think that by now there’d be at least some hints of support towards him being gay, if not within his work then within his personal life. Truthfully, I know plenty of members of the LGBTQ+ community who are into combat sports. Also I feel like there’s an evident lack of female characters.
While Orlando and Johnson do an excellent job writing the series, Al Morgan’s artwork works brilliantly not only to capture the gruesome realism of the fight scenes but also the everyday emotion throughout. Moreover, Morgan’s monochrome coloring sets the tone and excellently establishes the mood of each scene.
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