Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrator: Emma Ríos
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A surreal gothic western with death as its central theme and strong women as its central characters.
Imagine a gender-bent Tombstone meets The Crow.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A traveling girl, Sissy, dressed as a vulture, and a blind man, Fox, come to town. They tell a story of how Death fell in love with a woman and made a child, and how he raised her as a killer of sinful men.
Now, a woman named Alice hunts the touring duo, for reasons unknown. But her aggressive, fearsome demeanor makes her seem an awful lot like Ginny, Death's daughter from the tale they tell. She’s not her, but they may have something in common...or someone.
Why are Sissy and Fox being hunted? How did they get to this point? And where do they even plan to go if they survive?
First off, the cover art is gorgeous and indicative of the interior art. It also has a spot gloss on the logo and text, which I am never not a sucker for.
Emma Ríos's interior art is stunning and surreal, like a haunting Dalí painting done in a Westernized manga style. Elements blend into one another, often shunning traditional panel style for more innovative or immersive layouts.
One example of innovative layouts is how a character uses a staff to split up the page and point to focal points. It's a very smart use of the medium, using character action to provide page flow. There are more ways the characters interact with the art like this in later issues.
DeConnick does wonders making you care for the characters quickly and giving each a unique voice while establishing a cultural way of speaking for the world at large.
The story itself is compelling before you even realize why or what it's about. By the time you have all the pieces put together, it's practically over, and you'll find yourself thirsty for so much more story within the rich universe she and Ríos have built.
Fight scenes are well-choreographed and unhurried, giving the comic a good pace and balance between story and action, and just generally being really enjoyable when they come up.
Really cool that they list the entire creative team, including the colorist, letterer and editor, in the credit captions.
Bellaire's palette is limited, but only page-by-page or scene-by-scene. Often, it’s what you might imagine for a western: warm colors by day and cool ones for the nighttime. But when it breaks that pattern, it makes that otherworldliness hit all the harder.
Throughout most of the comic, the colors look like the page below. But Jordie Bellaire uses a watercolor appearance for Ginny’s eyes that contrasts with the grainy coloring used for everything else. That contrast gives her an otherworldly, haunting effect that's as much a part of her character as the skull facial tattoo or her origin story.
It seems like Clayton Cowles uses a couple different typefaces for sound effects in this book. Not only does it help build an overall style for Pretty Deadly, it also adds texture to the grit and violence in its pages.
Pretty Deadly is a comic with strong women, black characters and a blind character (as well as a red-haired man) making up the vast majority of its cast. It's fantastic seeing so much minority representation and strong characterization in a comic as well done as this.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The untraditional page and panel layouts bring a fresh perspective to the page, but at the cost of easy readability on smaller digital devices.
It can be difficult to decipher what's going on in some smaller panels.
Nudity and visceral violence can mean it's not the best read for younger audiences.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
It's a surreal, gothic western where most of the story is narrated by a dead rabbit to a butterfly. In fact, it's almost like a fairytale, with many of the characters (and the volumes of Pretty Deadly) named after animals.
Filled with action and badass women, Pretty Deadly is truly enjoyable storytelling that should be at the top of your "To Read" pile.
Just make sure to schedule time to read the whole thing – you won't be able to put it down.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro & Robert Wilson IV
Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjhorie Liu & Sana Takeda
The Sixth Gun, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
If you like the art:
Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Ríos
Doctor Strange: Strange Origin by Greg Pak & Emma Ríos
East of West, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kelly Sue DeConnick – Writer
Is a vocal feminist who started the #VisibleWomen hashtag to bring more attention to the many talented women in the comics industry
Knew several other big names in comics through a Warren Ellis web forum before all of them made it big
Dream Team: She is married to another talented comic book writer, Matt Fraction
Emma Ríos – Illustrator
Outlander: Is based in Spain
Multitalented: Has a background in architecture
Jordie Bellaire – Colorist
Multitalented: Also writes the Redlands comic
Name Recognition: One of the most talented and sought-out colorists in the industry
Outlander: Lives in Ireland
Clayton Cowles – Letterer
Name Recognition: Cowles (pronounced ‘Coals’) is extremely talented and letters a massive number of comics, especially for Marvel and Image
Dream Team: Currently works with some of the biggest names in comics, and often works with Jordie Bellaire on comics
Tends to use pre-made fonts rather than create them himself
Sigrid Ellis – Editor
Multitalented: Also works as an air traffic controller and writer
Has made an appearance on the Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast
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