Comic BookComic Review

Comic Review: PRETTY DEADLY #1

If you read a lot of comics, even non-superhero comics, you have a set of expectations when it comes time to read a first issue. You expect to meet your hero, and maybe even your villain. You expect a clear definition of the story going forward. You expect, to some extent, to get a road map of sorts. Well, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios don’t care what you expect, and the comic they produced is better for it. They’re building a legend, you see. A myth. Pretty Deadly #1 is not the announcement of a new battle between good and evil. It’s not a slam-bang launch into widescreen comic book bombast. Instead, it’s a beautifully rendered, carefully told first installment of a supernatural ballad, and in that respect it succeeds magnificently.

DeConnick and Rios begin their saga with a rabbit and a butterfly, talking to each other about the rabbit’s end with a haunting, very fable-like tone. From there, things shift to Sissy, a girl in a visually captivating vulture cloak (which might be the most beautiful thing Rios produces in this issue, and that’s saying something), and her blind companion Foxy. Together, they travel through Western towns telling the tale of Deathface Ginny, Death’s Daughter, and how she came to be. The issue is much more about Sissy and Foxy than it is about Ginny, but as we see them facing the plight of outsiders in their world, we care enough to dig deeper into their saga, and though we don’t yet know how their stories relate to that of the almost mythological Ginny, it’s enough to be a very solid hook (or at least, it was for me).

I honestly can’t overstate just how impressed I was with the guts it took to put out a first issue like this, but simply calling it ballsy isn’t enough. Sure, Pretty Deadly #1 subverts both the expectations of a first issue and the expectations of its billing as a supernatural Western here, and that’s all well and good, but it does more than that. Rarely have I read a comic that seems like such a seamless melding between art and writing. DeConnick and Rios become one in this issue. They become a single, invisible storyteller, here to render for us a mysterious and compelling beginning to what looks like a sprawling, dream-woven folk tale.

Though some readers will struggle (and perhaps even recoil from) its murkiness, I see something great lurking in the pages of Pretty Deadly #1, and not just because of its ambitious beginnings. This is more than an unconventional debut for a comic. It’s also a very well-rendered one, and though you may have not ever read a comic book quite like this before, it’s certainly worth a look. DeConnick and Rios are building something big here, I feel it, and you don’t want to miss it.

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Matthew Jackson

Matthew Jackson