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‘We Only Kill Each Other’ (review)

Written by Stephanie Phillips
Art by Peter Krause
Published by Dark Horse Comics

 

Identity is a helluva thing, you know?

Who we are and how we view our place in the world frequently depend on our circumstances. In mental health counseling, the definition of the personal fable is a belief that adolescents hold, telling them that they are special and unique and that none of life’s difficulties or challenges will affect them regardless of behavior.

Child psychologist David Elkind states that people who suffer under the delusion of the personal fable believe themselves to be the center of attention because they are special or unique.

I want to argue that an equal number of adults hold this wrong thinking.

On the opposite end of that spectrum is stereotype threat which is defined as a socially premised psychological threat that arises when one is in a situation or doing something for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies.

In other words, the threat of stereotyping makes people behave stereotypically.

I know you are thinking to yourself a few paragraphs in, am I reading an essay on mental health or a comic book review?

I bring up these two different ideas because these are some of the themes in Stephanie Phillips and Peters Krause’s graphic novel We Only Kill Each Other.

Set in the year is 1938, the threat of World War II looms over the United States, where Nazi sympathizers and fascists have taken root on American soil in alarming numbers. In New York City, resistance to the American Nazi movement grows amongst the ranks of Jewish-American gangsters.

Enter Jonas Kaminsky, a rising small-time gangster embroiled in a turf war with Levi Solomon, an old-time mob boss with millions tied up in gambling and alcohol. When thrown together in an unexpected circumstance, it turns out that the one thing these gangsters hate more than each other is the Nazis.

Jonas represents the idea of stereotype threat, a young angry, self-loathing thug who tries very hard to distance himself from his Jewish roots. On the other hand, Levi Solomon is a proud and devout Jew that believes in himself despite the harm he is doing to his community. Levi is the embodiment of the personal fable.

Phillips takes a story and combines it with Krause’s beautiful art to create a piece of work that could not only be an action film, but also a drama about coming to terms with who you want to be, who you are, and the surprising people that will help you find your way.

This book was a brilliant piece of work that never missed a beat. I could easily see a significant Hollywood studio adapting this story and crafting a solid action film or streaming series, one that entertains and makes viewers question their sense of self and heritage.

 

Final score 4.75 out of 5 Stars

 

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