As much as the Pretty Deadly series is so deep and dense with its mythology and poetry that the first arc needs several readings to understand, the second arc has been simpler for the most part. The story is a mix of the different death reapers infighting while at least some of them are assigned to take Cyrus home to see his dying mother. The problem is that not only is he in the trenches of the First World War, but there’s a reaper who’s actively fighting against the rest, not to mention personal disputes between some of the others. After several issues that are easier to understand, this one gets right back to the complex storytelling. Without further to do, let’s talk about the penultimate issue of the second arc in writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios’s creator-owned series.
Although this story is complex, a second reading will be enough to figure out what’s going on. Better yet, there’s so much action and brutality in this issue that it’s fun either way. Ginny is on a rampage while she’s pursuing the enemy reaper, while there’s a bit of a wild west/style gun duel between two other reapers. The reveal towards the end about how the enemy reaper is so powerful is also a great touch. Probably the most brilliant part of this comic is actually the opening though, as the narrators discuss how an injury could be a blessing in a disguise, but at the same time, you don’t know how good or bad things will be until the story is over. The themes in this series continue to grow deeper with each entry.
The art is also great. It perfectly captures the brutal action as Ginny slices through enemy soldiers, with brilliant layouts that let the action flow well, while emphasizing the enemy reaper’s power and invoking artistic images in the red mist. Facial expressions do a great job at conveying emotions, like Alice’s smug look when she’s facing down a fellow reaper who’s bitter toward her, and the pained look in the eyes of a dying soldier who’s covered in blood. This issue often sacrifices backgrounds for smoke and imagery that emphasizes the reaper theme, and it works brilliantly, but when there is background detail it’s well detailed. Jordie Bellaire’s colouring is mostly limited to brown, black, grey and red, but for a comic about a bunch of death reapers in the trenches in France, that’s quite appropriate. There’s still more than enough variety in shading to make it easy to see everything.
As usual for Pretty Deadly, this is a great issue. This arc may have taken a few issues to get going, but today’s entry alone makes the build-up worth it. It mixes mythology, poetry, a fairy tale, western and a war story, and everything fits together in a beautiful package. This series won’t be for everyone with its complex narration, and if this is your first issue you’ll be completely lost, but if you read comics, you should at least give Pretty Deadly a chance.