Pretty Deadly #2
Script: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art & Cover: Emma Rios
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Review by Joey Braccino
Alright—now I’m diggin’ Pretty Deadly. Last month’s debut issue was sort of litmus/Rorschach test of sorts—an atmospheric, moody exploration of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’ proto-Western-meets-surreal-Death-mythos designed to evoke a visceral reading response rather than establish any ongoing plot or conflict. This week, however, with Pretty Deadly #2, DeConnick and Rios quickly and effectively bring the series’ protagonist, Ginny, to the forefront in a brutal, fascinating story.
The story of Ginny, the daughter of Death, continues as she defends Sarah and her family (the shelter Fox and Sissy fled to in issue #1) from Big Alice’s vicious assault. Big Alice and her crew are looking for some sort of document, which Sissy had pickpocketed from the hapless Johnny Coyote. The actual specifics of this plot are still up in the air for me; I’m more invested in DeConnick’s characterization and enthralling world-building. I’m sure the nature of this document and the connections between all of these threads will be made apparent in upcoming issues, but right now DeConnick’s primary goal is getting readers invested and interested in the strange and surreal world of Pretty Deadly.
Needless to say, she is succeeding in spades right now. Issue #2 continues that balladic, lyrical feel that makes Pretty Deadly read like a camp-fire folk poem. Aside from the obvious “Song of Deathface Ginny” that haunts the text, DeConnick frames the narrative with multiple “storytelling” sequences: Bones Bunny and Butterfly tell each other the story of Ginny, metaphorical sequences of Night and Day Maids prefaces the brutality at Sarah’s place, and Sissy’s dream anticipates the future of the series. Hell, even Kelly Sue DeConnick’s thought-provoking anecdote in the letters column continues this notion of storytelling. In many ways, Pretty Deadly is like the Ballads and Tall Tales of the Western genre tradition.
Emma Rios’ surrealism is perfect for the high fantasy of DeConnick’s concepts. Rios’ aesthetic mixes scratchy, moody expressionism with withering, almost skeletal figurework. Her trademark sequencing technique is the use of multiple 1”x1” insets to highlight emotional and physical subtleties. Instead of simply opening up the perspective to a wide, cinematic view of deserts and tumbleweeds, Rios refuses to let these nuanced character beats fall to the wayside. Jordie Bellaire’s colors range from rich blues to pale lavenders to stark scarlet reds. The final result is a visually dynamic, engaging reading experience from cover to cover.
Pretty Deadly is one of this Fall’s must-read new series. Each panel on each page is a single piece of an enthralling, engaging Western surrealist ballad. For those that were turned off by the lack of driving conflict in the first issue, I feel you, but Pretty Deadly #2 brings the inter-character conflict hard. DeConnick and Rios (and Bellaire and Cowles!) are doing something really unique here; Check it!