Writer: Erica Schultz
Illustrator: Carola Borelli
Publisher: Vices Press / Kickstarter
WHAT IS IT?
The Deadliest Bouquet #1 is an electrifying opening issue for a thriller/murder-mystery comic miniseries. Betrayal, secrets, and trauma are unearthed as a group of three estranged sisters attempt to solve the case of their mother's murder.
The mystery aspect and trio of sisters protagonists bring to mind the television show Charmed mixed with a disconcerting house backstory setting like The Haunting of Hill House.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After the murder of their mother, Jasmine, sisters Violet, Rose, and Poppy reunite for the first time at the crime scene. Owner of Les Trois Fleurs, the women's Nazi-tracking mother made many enemies during her lifetime, so the potential suspect list could be lengthy. It's been years since the estranged sisters have contacted one another after their traumatic childhood drove them apart. But to catch the killer, the trio are must work together.
In order to solve the murder, the sisters are forced to put aside their differences while harboring grave family home secrets. Can Violet, Rose, and Poppy join forces without butting heads? More importantly, can they hide their undisclosed skeletons in the closet from the case investigators?
Erica Schultz presents a compelling murder mystery story, managing to add innovative themes onto tropes found in the genre.
The art captures the kitschy, modernist atmosphere of the late 90s. Carola Borelli leans on a modernist cartoony artistic style while still using enough subtle detail to express the characters' personalities.
Gab Contreras opts for vibrant, solid coloring to further contribute to the 90s verve appeal.
Contreras is assisted by colorist Chefel Peterson, helping illuminate the tonal mode of the comic through visual colors.
Writer Erica Schultz letters pragmatically. Her lettering is smooth without distracting readers or using noticeable embellishment.
Cover artist Kevin Wada deserves recognition for the stunning cover of The Deadliest Bouquet #1. Wada's artistic choices render Violet, Rose, and Poppy with an attuned perception toward the sister's individual personas. The blood dripping from the bouquet of roses is a nuanced touch that more than alludes to the content inside.
Flashback usage appears at appropriate moments, in terms of narrative pacing. These flashbacks give readers an enticing taste of backstory for readers to engage with.
Each sister -- Violet, Rose, and Poppy -- all boast immensely differing character traits and quirks. Schultz's dialogue provides the sisters with distinct, recognizable voices.
Similarly, Borelli's character designs work exceptionally hard to assign a visual image to each sister. Their facial features, unique fashion senses, and hair colors/styles act as a tangible memory stamp for readers to identify each woman.
Sporadically, floral logos or shield insignias accompany off-panel dialogue inside dialogue boxes. The designs are memorable, again serving as elucidated visual prompts when delineating the sister speaking.
The overall aesthetic of The Deadliest Bouquet #1 is what drew me toward this comic. Both narratively and artistically, the crime-genre ambiance of the comic is tempered by the artistic lightheartedness. The art and colors add a comforting layer of texture.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
There's a few odd narrative choices in this issue that can cause readers a moment of pause. For instance, Poppy's husband, Derek, brings their two kids to the active crime scene. Although the lead investigator initially stops him from fully entering, Derek and the two extremely young children are allowed to walk all the way through the house.
Detective Bayani recognizes the tattoo on Jasmine's hand as a World War II La Résistance symbol. This is not a commonly known symbol, but a line of dialogue explains that Bayani is a "history buff." Seeing as how we know nothing about Bayani yet and most readers wouldn't be aware of this imagery, this seems like an unrealistic plot device working only to further the narrative.
While the solicitation and all the pre-Kickstarter blurbs explain that the comic is set in 1998, the time period is never explicitly specified within the issue. The lack of cell phones and use of corded home phones cue readers into a pre-technology era, but a simple superimposed panel with text that reads "1998" on the first page would be distinguishing.
The pacing is a bit stilted, jumping from one scene to the next without giving readers a lot of time to digest the information.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Deadliest Bouquet #1 makes good on its promise of establishing an engaging mystery, delivering an entertaining comic about three, crime-solving sisters with a murky family history. Readers will assuredly gravitate toward the nebulousness surrounding Rose, Violet, and Poppy as the comic explores the significant effects of sibling relationships dismantled by childhood trauma. All of this is driven by Carola Borelli's (literally) killer character designs to exemplify the idiosyncrasies of the sisters.
The Deadliest Bouquet #1 may revolve around a murder plot, but it's an aesthetically illustrated comic I could see myself wanting to read on a summer vacation. Sisterhood as a main theme also allows readers with annoying but lovable sisters to find common ground within this issue. Visually, this issue wraps you up in a sense of familiarity while the mystery narrative prods at your intrigue. The Deadliest Bouquet proves a fun read with mature themes to keep you hooked.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
M3 by Erica Schultz & Vicente Alcázar
Strange Tails by Claire Connelly & Erica Schultz
I Walk With Monsters by Paul Cornell & Sally Cantirino
If you like the art:
Destiny, NY Vol. 3: Who I'm Going to Be by Pat Shand, Carola Borelli, & Elisa Romboli
OBS: Vampirsoldat #1 by Joe Burns & Carola Borelli
TRUE KVLT by Scott Bryan Wilson & Liana Kangas
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Erica Schultz – Writer & Letterer (@EricaShultz42)
Multitalented: Erica is a comic book writer, letterer, editor at Mad Cave Studios, and instructor at The Kubert School.
Writer of the comic Forgotten Home which was nominated for five Ringo Awards in 2020, and co-creator of Strange Tails with Claire Connelly, which was also nominated for a Ringo Award in 2020.
Erica has worked for major comic publishers Marvel, DC, and Image.
Carola Borelli – Illustrator (@CarolaBorelli)
Carola is a comic book illustrator. You can find her art in Destiny, NY Vol. 3 from Space Between Entertainment.
Outlander: Hails from Rome.
Gab Contreras – Colorist (@GabContrerasR)
Multitalented: Gab is a comic book colorist and illustrator, as well as a graphic designer for Editora Vuk.
Dream Team: Gab contributed her comic coloring skills to Erica Shultz's Strange Tails comic. You can also find Gab's art in comics like Witchblood, TRUE KVLT and The Final Girls.
Outlander: Hails from Lima, Peru.
Chefel Peterson – Color Assists
Dream Team: Chefel color assisted Gab Contreras in The Final Girls comic miniseries.
Kevin Wada – Cover Artist (@kevinwada)
Kevin is an American watercolor painter and comics artist who gained recognition after reimagining women of X-Men in fashion illustrations.
Name Recognition: Kevin works for Marvel and DC as an illustrator, with over 87 credits to his name thus far.
Attended the California College of Arts in San Francisco and cites comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz as an artistic influence.
James B. Emmett – Edits (@jamesbemmett)
Multitalented: James is a freelance illustrator, a comic book artist, a writer, and holds the title of Creative Project Manager.
He earned a BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, and went on to work for companies like Marvel Comics, Kess Agency, CollegeHumor, 451 Media, Crown Advertising, and Pulse Magazine
Hails from Brooklyn, New York.
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