Pretty Deadly 10 (June 2016)

Pretty Deadly #10

Pretty Deadly wraps up its second arc with the series’s standard mix of action and humanism. Standard isn’t a pejorative; creators DeConnick and Rios have always taken a singular approach to genre with the comic. They refuse to firmly foot in any–this arc is a WWI story and the story of a black family in 1918(?) America–they also refuse to rely on any genre tropes, yet there’s always a familiarity with them. Pretty Deadly is an intentionally tough comic to digest. The digestion process is where DeConnick and Rios are able to affect the reader the most.

About half this issue is resolution to the arc, which suggests a single sitting read of the arc might be in order, and the other half is mostly action. Except it’s Rios’s mystical, yet very physical, action. There’s a fluidity to the movement in the mystical action–the reader has to find their own entry point and then follow the movement across the page. Lots of full page spreads here–again, it’s the last issue in the arc, so there need to be money shots. Rios fills them with glorious dread.

While DeConnick wraps up for the arc’s new characters, she does make a few hints to Deadly’s future. But as Pretty Deadly moves across time periods–it started as a Western–DeConnick opens it up more. The implications of the mystical world of the Reapers aren’t just how it relates to the present action of the arc. DeConnick and Rios are gradually introducing a much bigger world.

Pretty Deadly is simultaneously loud and quiet, thrilling and reserved. It’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

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Pretty Deadly 9 (April 2016)

Pretty Deadly #9

Pretty Deadly is such a strange book. Rios’s art is perfect. She’s got a fable to do, the World War I battlefield, the mystical stuff. It’s all perfect. She’s controlled in showing the horrific nature of combat, very precise. The comic is visually unsettling, which is an ideal match for DeConnick’s approach to the script. It’s meticulous while still being confusing.

With Deadly, I always wonder if reading it three times an issue, then again in the trade, would be the best way to get all of it. DeConnick has so much going on–and toggles between things (you’ve got to love how she basically is doing traditional, juxtaposed comic book action), plus there’s the fable to figure in.

It’s serious work. I think I love that aspect of Pretty Deadly the most. It’s very, very serious. Rios and DeConnick aren’t messing around. If there’s a smile in the issue (and I don’t think there is one this issue), it’s because DeConnick is letting the reader have it. Mystical embodiments of war and death aren’t funny. The First World War isn’t funny. It’s not a gag. It’s a backdrop for DeConnick and Rios’s explorations.

I’ll read all again someday, once it’s finished. I want that experience.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 8 (February 2016)

Pretty Deadly #8

Pretty Deadly has become a book I savor. DeConnick and Rios have lost their Western setting–though it does still play a part visually and thematically–and gotten into World War I. The trenches. Deadly has become a war comic.

Except the magic is different. It’s still evil, bad magic, but it doesn’t affect the war comic’s protagonist in the same way it did in the series’s first arc. He’s far more the subject of the plot than an actor in it. That narrative distance works because of both DeConnick and Rios’s individual contributions.

When the comic moves between subplots, Rios has subtle changes in style. Sometimes in the level of detail, sometimes in figures’ fluidity. There’s a flow to Deadly, weaving between the subplots.

Pretty Deadly is a confusing, dense read. DeConnick relies on Rios to help make it easier to read while also contributing to the density. DeConnick doesn’t want any grounding to the supernatural. It’s not science, it’s not quantum physics, it’s supernatural. Accepting it–and not dwelling on it–is one of the series’s agreements with the reader. DeConnick doesn’t allow any alternatives.

And, yet, she isn’t hostile about it. Pretty Deadly goes out of its way to be welcoming. It’s endearing–and even makes the really disturbing villains endearing.

It’s really good. This issue isn’t one of the best either. And it’s still really good.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 6 (November 2015)

Pretty Deadly #6

I missed Pretty Deadly. I forgot what it was like to read a comic aware of its genre possibilities, acknowledging of them to some degree, but entirely disinterested in taking part. As a result, the comic is its own thing, something strange and ethereal and beautiful from DeConnick and Rios.

This issue definitely starts off a new arc, dealing with the descendants of the previous characters (set in World War I, at home and in France). DeConnick doesn’t introduce or reintroduce anyone (the text prologue has very little to do with the majority of the issue). Instead, it’s just time to read Pretty Deadly again.

The amount of work Rios and DeConnick put into the visual construction of the comic is reason alone to read it. It’s cohesive, yet full of little visual sequences–not subplots as much as narrative tangents–all with a mildly different approach.

DeConnick’s thoughtful, deliberate characterizations keep it from ever getting too hostile to distracted readers. Even though there’s a fantastical, dreary, magical world, because the characters are able to navigate it, so is the reader.

It’s great to have it back.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 2 (August 2015)

Island #2

Simon Roy starts a story this issue. Some sort of futuristic thing with the plants having grown over everything and people living a savage existence. With cannibalism, he hints, but also secret replicators and lasers. It’s cool. It’s really well-done. It’s just too soon to tell if he’s got anything amazing up his narrative sleeves. With Roy’s level of detail–it’s gorgeous art–it’s hard not to think style above substance, but he’s so careful with the content… maybe it’ll be something great.

And Emma Rios finishes up her mind-transfer story. It’s okay. The art overly stylized–black and white but with different colors for the black depending on scene (and not dark colors, like light red)–but Rios’s panel compositions and her panel transitions are amazing. The story’s kind of bleh, but the structure of the visual narrative makes it worthwhile.

I forgot to mention the Ludroe story about the cats and the skaters. It’s back. It’s dumb. I think I liked the art more this time but the story’s even stupider. I’m definitely not the audience for it.

CREDITS

Contributors, Will Kirkby, Ludroe, Simon Roy, Emma Rios and Robin Bougie; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 1 (July 2015)

Island #1

Island is an anthology series. I didn’t realize it was an anthology series with multiple creators and stories per issue. It feels like Dark Horse Presents, actually. Maybe a bit more indie, but basically it’s DHP. And being the new DHP is fine because the new DHP hasn’t done it.

There are three stories–one from Emma Rios, one from Brandon Graham (who’s also the editor of Island) and one from Ludroe. They’re all open-minded so they can continue. Two of them are all right. Ludroe’s skating thing isn’t my cup of tea. There’s no writing to it (besides alleycats being a gang of talking cats), no constraint.

Rios’s story is okay. The sci-fi setting being background to the characters is nice and some of the art’s good (not the action though).

Graham’s story is craziness and wonderfulness. He gloriously trumps continuity and expectation with ambition and exploration.

CREDITS

Contributors, Marian Churchland, Emma Rios, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brandon Graham and Ludroe; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 5 (April 2014)

Pretty Deadly #5

DeConnick has a decent finish for the end of the first Pretty Deadly arc. There’s something missing, like she rushed through resolving the showdown in order to get to the next showdown. It’s hurried and there’s little sense of the journey the characters take.

There’s also a lot of narration through the issue–the framing sequence has never felt so prevalent. The characters all become the subject of this narration and no longer the leads in it.

Still, Rios’s art is gorgeous and DeConnick gets in some good character moments. There’s just not enough room for all the things they’re imagining. It feels undeveloped, especially when it comes to the big finale. There’s a mix of action and character stuff and neither really gets the deserved amount of attention.

Deadly has been able to be confusing and rewarding at the same time. Here, DeConnick tries too hard to be intelligible.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 4 (January 2014)

Pretty deadly 04

A real cast list. All I ask for is a real cast list. It’s got to make sense–and even I figured out the main girl’s destiny–but a cheat sheet would be so helpful. I probably could look online, couldn’t I?

But I like being off balance with Pretty Deadly. Something about Rios’s art makes discovering story connections, instead of worrying about them before reading, a more pleasing reading experience.

This issue might have DeConnick’s first tranquil scene in the series–Death talking to his love (more her talking to him). It’s a strange, beautiful, sad scene.

There’s also a big fight scene. Rios does fine with it, but it goes on way too long. Rios has a lyrical quality to her action, especially this fight–told mostly in long shots–and the horizontal panels get a wee long in the tooth.

DeConnick’s setting up for something rather big.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 3 (December 2013)

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The issue opens with a recap of the previous issues. Only it’s more confusing than anything else–DeConnick has so much going on, what with mixing a Western with the supernatural and all. The recap implies someone might actually be able to follow the comic… and, if one out there is following the story without taking notes, more power to them.

But I tend to think Pretty Deadly works so well because it doesn’t need to make sense necessarily. Not along the way. Along the way, DeConnick writes good scenes and Rios draws good scenes and they all add up to something in the end.

It’s still a Western after all. These guys are doing this thing over here, those guys are looking for the first guys and so on. The rest of it doesn’t matter too much. The details make Deadly different, but it’s a Western; a good one.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

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