Kyle Starks loves action movies, and he’s built a career bringing the energy of classic action films to comics. His 2015 graphic novel, Sexcastle, was an exhilarating story about an assassin trying to escape his violent life, and it gained the attention of Hollywood, being optioned last year as a film directed by Workaholics’ Kyle Newachek and starring Blake Anderson in the lead role. Starks’ most recent miniseries, Rock Candy Mountain, was a fascinating story that combined Chinese wuxia storytelling with American hobo adventure, but he’s back in an exceptionally brutal mode with his new Oni Press graphic novel, Kill Them All, following a disgraced detective and a vengeful assassin as they kick, punch, shoot, and slash their way through fifteen floors of enemy combatants.
“I was watching John Woo’s Hard Boiled,” says Starks, “and the bit where they are fighting their way through the hospital at the end I said to myself, ‘What if I made a book that was just that?’ And it got bigger from there because there were a lot of tropes I wanted to touch on—like doing a ‘buddy-action’ book or doing a Woo classic of Good Guy-Bad Guy team up—basically a lot of the things that I couldn’t get into Sexcastle. Full transparency, it was also definitely super influenced by me, at the time, losing the job I thought was going to be my career and dealing with that burden.”
“If Sexcastle is a full blooded love letter to the eighties, then Kill Them All is one to the nineties,” says Starks. “It’s really inspired by the early John Woo films and Die Hard. I really wanted to do a sleeker, faster book that was more revenge/storming the castle. But, in terms of an homage, they’re side by side, baby! It has tons of toughs, miles of awesome one-liners, and so many kicks! Kill Them All is a lot more of a shooter and less of a fighter, though it also has that in spades.”
This exclusive preview of Kill Them All highlights that thrilling action along with Starks’ sense of humor, which is an essential component of his comics. That contrast of visceral violence with light-hearted comedy makes his books fun, breezy reads, and he understands that the best action stories make room for jokes to give people a short break from the intensity before jumping back into the fray. Starks breaks down the action beats with precision, and one of the most impressive things about this excerpt is how he controls the passage of time, like the slow-motion sequence of an umbrella and a bullet flying toward a shooter at the same time. Luigi Anderson’s coloring also adds extra energy to the artwork in these pages, specifically his use of warm yellow and orange to accentuate each hit.
“I feel like I’ve found a type of story I really like to tell, which is to say an action-comedy with some real heart to it,” says Starks. “Unlike Sexcastle, Kill Them All is a bigger cast. It has two and a half leads and tons more baddies to manage. It’s a female lead, which I’ve never done. If you liked Sexcastle and you wished there was more like it, that’s what you’re getting with Kill Them All, but it’s a completely different beast.” Readers can join these heroes on their bloody, ferocious journey by picking up Kill Them All tomorrow, but in the meanwhile, here’s an extended excerpt showcasing Starks and Anderson’s action chops.