Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick
Artist: Emma Rios
Release Date: 23 December 2015
Pretty Deadly is a fascinating mix of fairy tale and horror western. Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick has stated that the initial idea was to create a world that revelled in the style of the Italian spaghetti western film. Her story has grown, organically and beautifully, into a wonderfully unique world with its own mythology and several distinctive characters.
Each comic opens with a splash that relates the Ballad; the story of Sissy, the young girl born in a river of blood that overcame Old Death and took his place, is told by Bones Bunny and the Butterfly in the Garden of the afterlife. Their ballad, in itself a fable as they discuss nature, life and loss, beautifully sets the existential tone of the second volume.
While the initial story arc in the first volume was set in an unspecified western landscape, the second volume explores the horrors of the First World War. Deconnick has sewn this historical focus into the generic and fantastical world of the first volume via a link between the characters. Set several years after the first volume, Sissy has fully embraced her role as Death, collecting souls while attempting to restore the Garden of the afterlife and recall the disbanded Reapers back to their posts. Sarah Fields, who in the first volume helped Sissy to escape Reapers Big Alice and Old Death’s daughter, Deathface Ginny, is now elderly and lies on her deathbed. A Reaper is sent for her, but as he was Sarah’s friend, Sarah’s daughter implores him to give spare her mother’s life until the family can bring back Sarah’s son, Cyrus, to say goodbye.
The only problem is that Cyrus is currently serving with the French army in the Great War, in the 369th Infantry Regiment. Sissy thus deploys Reapers Big Alice and Deathface Ginny to France, but it is soon revealed that this is not a simple rescue mission; Cyrus has his mother’s gift of second sight, and can see what is haunting the trenches, and what Big Alice and Deathface Ginny have truly come to face…
Artist Emma Rios has created a completely unique world, which is brought to life by her unique format. She largely creates single page panels that act as exposition from which one or more smaller panel provide further action or character detail. She is creative in her design, simply using guttering and silhouettes to break up action, as well as using the perspective of a soldier wearing a gas mask to great effect.
Colourist Jordie Bellaire has used the pallete to great effect as the action travels from the pastel, summer colours of the Garden, to the golden American mid-west and then to the battlefields of France, with cold blues and ghostly greens jarring with deep reds. Her simple touches of colour also add nuanced detail to the characters; Deathface Ginny lives up to her name and Big Alice is a ghostly angel of death in grey and silver.
The second volume has built upon the unique world and characters within the perfectly executed initial story arc and has successfully integrated an historically focussed plot that touches on an aspect of the First World War that isn’t often explored. The series is a riveting read and a joy to look at.
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The writer of this article was: Rebecca Booth.