Indie Reviews: Pretty Deadly

  • By Mathias Lewis
  • 14 Nov, 2017

The major comic companies get enough reviews and press, it’s time for the creator-owned and indie series to get some love and judgment. Indie review takes up-and-coming indie and creator-owned series and puts them through the review process so you can confidently support the best of the small press and passion driven projects in the comic industry.

The Info Bit

Title: Pretty Deadly #1
Genre/s: Western
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick ( Avengers Assemble, Ghost )
Artist: Emma Rios ( Captain Marvel, Spider Island: Cloak & Dagger )
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire ( Batman Beyond 2.0, Ultimate X-men )
Letterer: Clayton Cowles ( Fantastic Four, Zero )
Publisher: Image Comics
Number of Issues: 1
Page Count: 29 (24 of which are sequential art)
Price: $3.50

The Review Bit

Kelly Sue Deconnick’s new creator owned comic series, Pretty Deadly has a pretty awesome concept that really drew me in. I’ve always been a fan of Western comics, filled with cowboys and the 19th century American Frontier, whether it’s Jonah Hex, Blueberry, or Image’s recent Outlaw Territory anthologies, I’m going to check it out. So when the solicit combined the paranormal sounding concept of Death’s daughter as a gunslinger with that genre, I couldn’t resist.

As the solicit hinted at, Pretty Deadly involves Death’s daughter in a Western style setting…but her involvement in the first issue is rather minimal. The comic does open with a young girl we might later presume is Ginny, Death’s daughter. Furthermore the comic is narrated by a butterfly and a bunny. Whether these are literal animals, which it seems, or the names of characters as of yet unrevealed in the first issue has yet to be determined. The story begins with Bunny telling the story of Ginny to butterfly, jumping from her unrevealed origin to the first time she met “the other girl”, the girl in the vulture cloak. We are introduced to this girl in a cloak of black vulture feathers, with a vulture head hood, in a small frontier town. There, her and her blind, bearded, and older compatriot by the name of Fox captivate the town with the tale of Ginny, Death’s daughter. Deconnick tells the whole tale in a wonderful rhymic meter, that is quite poetic, while Rios uses an almost tarot card like series of panels mixed with bleeding and gaseous panels that truly set the style of tale being told. This would be Ginny’s origin tale, even if she has yet to make a proper appearance. Instead the protagonist of this series seems to be Sissy, the young girl in the vulture cloak. After she tells the story of Ginny to the town, its various citizens offer her money for the show. One man, a red headed gun wielder by the name of Johnny, stops Sissy to look her over with a somewhat dark demeanor. He is put off by Sissy’s compatriot, Fox, and offers the girl a few coins in a rather condescending manner. This leads Sissy and Fox to exit the town and join up with their gang, moving on to another place. At the same time, a tall and dark clad woman by the name of Big Alice arrives in the town, searching for Johnny. She makes her way through the town’s brother with great authority until she tracks down and tortures Johnny into giving her a vulture feather fallen off the young Sissy’s cloak. From there, her and her posse begin pursuit of Sissy. Fox leads them away, having discovered Sissy stole something from Johnny that has obviously put a fright into the blind old man who seems to be a very talented gunslinger, despite his visual impediment. The group reaches the home of one of Fox’s old acquaintances, where Sissy sings the song of Ginny, a song that supposedly will bring Death’s daughter to the aid of anyone who has been done wrong.

Pretty Deadly is a fun western story that oddly reminds me of many unique fusion western films, like Sukiyaki Western Django or Bunraku . Well it has many of the basic tones and style of a classic spaghetti western, it also is rather stylized, with an almost asian cinematic feel to it (particularly a Zatoichi , blind warrior feeling via Fox). I have to admit, I’ve been following Kelly Sue Deconnick’s career in sequential art since she was the cute girl that worked at Viz. I was a fan since her 30 Days of Night mini-series with Steve Niles and love her recent Marvel and Dark Horse comics. This series feels rather different from those, but has a great style. Expecting Ginny to be the main character of the story, it is quite unique that she has yet to truly be involved outside of myth and brief reference. It gives the story an air of mystery, added to by multiple moments where the reader must question what is happening and where things are going, the really will draw you back for issue #2. This is much like the backmatter that Deconnick provides at the end of the issue, confusingly starting with a series of anecdotes that are titled by time and place, sharing the theme of Kelly’s fear of falling. Yet at the end of this fun and insightful backmatter you can see how everything ties together into the creation of Pretty Deadly. In that, I feel there is something to be said about the narrative this series will take.

While Bellaire’s colors on the book are rather flat, the art provided by Emma Rios is quite nice. It is nothing overtly sexy or detailed, but it does give a wonderfully Western appearance that suits the tale. Don’t expect the fine and stunning line work you see on the regular cover for the comic on the interior pages, which are a bit more basic and heavily inked. Instead, Rios’ interiors almost remind me of Becky Cloonan’s brief run on Conan the Barbarian. Her backgrounds are rather simple, defined heavily by the colors of Jordie Bellaire, and add to the fusion feeling as if this had Japanese manga styling to it. It is also worth pointing out there is a bit of nudity in the comic, giving it some more adult moments. I almost find it funny that the opening issue of Pretty Deadly has more nudity than Deconnick’s husband’s Image comic, Sex Criminals , which had a surprising lack of nudity for a comic with the word sex in the title.

Clayton Cowles provided lettering for the issue, and does quite the splendid job. While many of the word bubbles fit traditional comic stylings, his use of narrative over blank space and light color differences in the caption boxes between narratives of Bunny and Butterfly are subtle yet great usages of the medium. In the back of the comic, after Deconnick’s backmatter, is an additional piece of prose written by Chad Collier, with an illustration by Summer Suzuki. Cowles gives it a nice saloon style font that compliments the title preceding Collier’s enjoyable prose backmatter piece.

The Rating Bit

Pretty Deadly is a unique Western-esque tale in comic form. For those who like the recent Western-fusion films like The Warrior’s Way, this will likely be right up your alley. But this isn’t your traditional cowboy tale, and while the art is fitting to the story it is also somewhat unremarkable. With this in mind, I must give Pretty Deadly a 7 out of 10. It is a fun story, with a bit of potential, and a strong female cast and creative team, but it will sadly be passed over by a fair amount of comic readers who hoped for something closer to Lady Mechanika.

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