Writer: Ollie Masters
Artists: Eoin Marron and Jordie Bellaire
Killer Groove #4 pulls the curtain back on its band of lost souls. The surviving characters show their true colors, either in the past or the present. It really sets the stage for the upcoming final issue. Especially because it doesn’t just develop the characters but escalate the stakes. While the book has a promising resolution ahead, things are looking grim for the cast itself.
The look into Jackie’s fall from grace is exactly what it sounded like when first referenced. It’s the story of an up and coming cop facing discrimination from her peers. As with most of these narratives, unsupportive fathers, oppressive norms, and hypocrisy abound. Jackie’s story might not be the most original but the snappy presentation of her tragic tale over two pages of nine-panel grids adds some novelty to it. As usual, it also perfectly conveys the right emotions at just the right points.
Like Jackie, the foul-mouthed, lone kid Lucy draws from a fairly well-explored archetype. But Lucy lacks the development and complexity that lets Jackie explore such well-tread ground. While her situation is certainly sad, she still feels like more of a trope than a real character. Her flashback shows the human side of her dead veteran father. It’s certainly different from the second-hand, crazed image offered in previous issues but it’s still entirely in line with what the reader knows about him. It’s a touching moment, one that does more for Lucy’s father than Lucy herself. It’d be easier to look past such a poorly developed character arc if a well-developed cast wasn’t Killer Groove‘s strength.
Uncle Raul’s flashback is one of the more interesting ones, showing his illicit life back in Cuba and what put him in his current situation. It also unambiguously establishes him as being queer and handles it in a very appropriate way. Despite laudable advances in the depiction of LGBTQ+ individuals in comic books, it’s still very much lacking. Even in stories with good intentions, sexuality is approached in an exaggerated or even offensive way.
Killer Groove rises above that standard by providing a complex, multifaceted character whose sexuality is integral to his story without defining it entirely. The book also uses Raul’s identity to tie back to the larger theme about how big dreams have big costs. It’s revealed that Raul ends up in America to avoid persecution under the newly installed Castro regime and to avoid retribution for his criminal activities. In this way, Killer Groove uses its representation to drive the plot and organically introduce a real-world issue in a tasteful manner.
The final flashback makes it clear that Jonny’s lethal method of writing hit songs was far from unprecedented. Killer Groove is so well crafted that I never balked at the idea of a rock star moonlighting as a hitman. But with issue #4, a little more explanation is introduced for his behavior. This ends up reframing the earlier events of the story in a much darker light. Aside from his troubled past, Jonny is discovering that his success, both as a musician and a hitman, is coming at too high a price.
While Killer Groove‘s art is near perfect for the tale it’s telling, this issue really stood out. Few artists can cover such a wide range of characters, emotions, and subjects while providing equal care to each one. Even fewer can do that while also creating a coherent finished product that flows together so nicely. Similarly, Jordie Bellaire’s impressive colors have elevated John Marron’s art throughout the series. Black and white flashbacks are one of the oldest tricks in visual storytelling. But Bellaire’s clever usage of color entirely justifies that stylistic choice. The present-day events are approached with just as much creativity, bringing the energetic, dark tones of this story to the forefront.
Killer Groove #4
Killer Groove #4 takes a trip down memory lane as it starts to reach the end of its story.