(Image Comics, 2014)
Written by Kelley Sue DeConnick
Artwork by Emma Rios
Color Artwork by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Clayton Clowes
Kelly Sue Deconnick has proven herself to be one of the most versatile writers working today; her super hero work at Marvel is among the most innovative of their current offerings. However it’s her supernatural horror/ western Pretty Deadly that is breaking new ground among the independent mavericks.
This book intelligently melds the spaghetti western tropes of early Clint Eastwood films with the ethereal musings of Neil Gaiman and other writers of the Vertigo era. This series has maintained an epic poeticism that calls to mind the esoteric realm of The Dreaming in Gaiman’s classic Sandman series. Deconnick populates the Wild West badlands of her nightmarish narrative with ghoulish gunmen and twisted old crones of the prairie night. Pretty Deadly is an ode to heartbreaking loss and spiritual searching. The characters are complex in their dense symbolism and inventive origins.
This is perhaps the best issue of the series yet. Deconnick introduces us to the Shield Maids and deepens the lush textured story as told by Butterfly to Bunny, the skeletal remains of a rabbit. This is an elaborate tale that manages to be poignant without skimping on the action, this is a particularly action packed issue full of lots of six-gun shootouts and demonic entities. The Mason along with Ginny, Sissy and Sarah have confronted Big Alice in the Hellish landscape of the western night. The entire scene is poetic in its composition and visually dynamic. Deconnick employs some of her most imaginative metaphors to describe Ginny’s backstory. She is an extremely conflicted character with a dark destiny that she must fulfill.
Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire combine their amazing talents to bring Deconnick’s narrative to life. Rios’ detailed line work has an energy all its own; she creates a sense of horrific beauty with her slightly elongated interpretation of anatomy. The characters have a certain creepy elegance that works so well with the tonal quality of the book. Jordie Bellaire’s use of warm hues adds a fiery feel to the landscapes of twisted, broken trees and jagged rock formations. The overall effect conveys a hellish appearance that provides the perfect stage for this macabre drama.
This series may require a bit more attention than the usual fare but believe me it’s worth the extra work. It’s intelligently written, cleverly scripted and engrossingly plotted; Pretty Deadly is by far one of the most satisfying and thoroughly entertaining comic books being published today. It raises the bar for what can be accomplished through sequential storytelling in a graphic medium. The story unfolds of its own volition, under its own power at an organic pace. This is not the usual western shoot ‘em up hence it is not written at a break neck pace. However, Deconnick lets the narrative dictate the speed at which the plot progresses. The events are spaced evenly and woven into a lavish tapestry equally kinetic and cerebral.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of poetry with their gun fights. If you are a fan of the early Vertigo books or the current Swamp Thing and Animal Man titles, I believe you will find something in Pretty Deadly to keep you coming back for more. As I said this is not the kind of book you read on the train ride home with Jack White blasting on the iPod, no this is a book you read in the quietude of a dimly lit room, just bright enough to really appreciate the stunning artwork. There is a lot to take in and process in this book but the feeling you get when it all comes together is well worth it. (4/5)
Purchase “Pretty Deadly” #5 From Amazon.com Here.
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.