Why You Should Be Reading Pretty Deadly

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I always have a hard time figuring out which new comics I want to pick up. There are some choices that are easy, sure – I already know that I’ll be picking up Damian: Son of Batman when it’s released starting next week, and I’m just as sure that I have no interest in jumping into any of the X-Men titles – but the choices aren’t always that simple. I find it especially difficult to decide what, if any, indie books I’m going to check out. A lot of them are fantastic, and I’d never say otherwise, but there are so many ongoing titles from publishers that aren’t the Big Two that it seems even more daunting to figure out what to read there than it does to catch up with the first run of Detective Comics.

The only reliable methods that I’ve found for deciding which indie book to pick up are checking out reviews and recommendations, which is great but ends up spoiling the story for me, or finding something written by an author whose work I already enjoy and checking that out. That’s how I found Pretty Deadly, a new book by Kelly Sue DeConnick, which had its first issue released this week.

I was intrigued by the book right away. I’m a fan of DeConnick’s work in general, and when she started talking about Pretty Deadly on her tumblr, I knew it was one I’d have to check out. When a creator is as excited about a book as DeConnick has been about this one, you know it’s going to be something unique and interesting – and Pretty Deadly did not disappoint at all. The initial solicitation for the book was intriguing:

Death’s daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her tale of retribution is as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

That, coupled with DeConnick’s unfailing excitement about the book, was enough to make me get a copy as soon as it was released online this week.

Pretty Deadly #1: The art in this book is stunning.

Pretty Deadly #1: The art in this book is stunning.

Since it’s the first issue, I went in expecting to get a lot of introduction to various characters and the world that they inhabit. While we do meet several characters, and we get a solid grounding in the Old West, we also get a lot of story. The pacing is great throughout the book, moving from the town where we start through the desert and to the home of one of the characters. The story never drags or feels rushed, and there’s enough content in it to keep it interesting without ever feeling like we’re being handed information. It’s a stroke of excellent storytelling by DeConnick, and the art by Rios and coloring by Bellaire combine to become a stunning part of the delivery.

What makes this book a standout so far is a combination of the characters and the story itself. There are two story threads running through the first issue; one focuses on Sissy and Fox, who appear to be travelling storytellers in the Old West, and the other focuses on the town they stop in to tell their story.

Pretty Deadly #1: Our introduction to Sissy and Fox.

Pretty Deadly #1: Our introduction to Sissy and Fox.

The story that Sissy and Fox tell is that of Deathface Ginny, the daughter of Death by a woman called Beauty. Beauty’s story is tragic: she married a guy she’d known for a long time, and instead of letting her live her life, he made her a trophy wife in more than the usual sense of the word. Beauty’s husband became afraid that he’d lose her, so he built her a tower Rapunzel-style and stuck her inside. Beauty wished that Death would come for her, but when he did, he fell in love – and before she died, Beauty had his baby, whom Death named Ginny.

Pretty Deadly #1: Death raised his kid to be a Reaper. That's job security for you.

Pretty Deadly #1: Death raised his kid to be a Reaper. That’s job security for you.

Our story, therefore, is about a really powerful woman who helps other women who have been wronged by men, as her mother was wronged by her husband (and, presumably, by Death, since she had Ginny shortly before Death let her die). It’s exciting to see a book created by women that features a woman who helps women.

The other story in the book is short, but will undoubtedly be significant later in the story arc. We meet Big Alice as she walks into the saloon, looking for a man named Johnny. Big Alice shoots him in the leg as soon as she finds him, and then asks Johnny for something – something that Sissy stole form him earlier in the day, when Johnny harassed her in the town square. This starts a chase across the desert.

Pretty Deadly #1: This probably isn't going to end well.

Pretty Deadly #1: This probably isn’t going to end well.

It’s exciting to see that there are several characters of color in the book. Sissy isn’t a white character (I don’t want to try to guess at her ethnicity, but it’s clearly non-white); we’re later introduced to Sarah, an African-American woman who clearly knows how to protect her own.

Pretty Deadly #1: Sarah is my hero.

Pretty Deadly #1: Sarah is my hero.

The story concludes with Sissy, Fox, and the rest of their crew leaving Sarah’s house; they know they’ve attracted trouble, so they’re heading away. Sissy sings her song again to comfort Sarah’s small child.

Pretty Deadly #1: I don't really know if this is a story that will comfort a crying kid, but desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

Pretty Deadly #1: I don’t really know if this is a story that will comfort a crying kid, but desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

On the last page, we finally see Deathface Ginny, presumably coming because Sissy is singing her song – or because one of the people in the town did after Sissy and Fox told her story. The details haven’t been revealed yet, which is part of what makes the story so great – I really enjoy things that I can’t predict.

Deathface Ginny at last.

Deathface Ginny at last.

While not technically a part of the story, there are two pages at the end of the issue in which DeConnick tells a bit of her own history and how it led to the creation of Pretty Deadly, and reading those pages made me fall for the book even more. It’s clear that DeConnick loves the story that she’s creating, and like I said before, nothing make a new book more attractive to me than its creative team loving it to pieces. It was an excellent way to end the first issue.

Overall, the book is an interesting blend of a western and a supernatural fairy tale, and it promises to be an interesting ride as it goes on. I’ll definitely be keeping up with Pretty Deadly, and I really hope you will, too.

And if I haven’t sold you yet? Pretty Deadly is narrated by a dead bunny. If that doesn’t appeal to you at least a little… well, maybe the book isn’t for you. (I still encourage you to give it a try.)

Pretty Deadly. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick; art by Emma Rios and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Published October 2013. Buy it from comixology or get a DRM-free copy from Image; if you want a physical copy, look for it at your LCS.

Comments? Questions? Leave a reply! I’ll be happy to talk comics with you.

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