Two of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s creator-owned comics released today, this and Bitch Planet 8. While Bitch Planet is a good series about non-compliant women in prison with heavy anti-sexism themes, I find it more enjoyable to talk about Pretty Deadly. This is quite possibly the most unique comic on the market right now – it’s certainly the most unique in my pull list. Even when combining a western, a fairy tale, poetry, mythology and in this story arc, World War 1, it’s still a coherent story. It’s just a story you’ll need to read several times to properly understand.
Pretty Deadly 10 concludes the World War 1 arc with a duel between Ginny, death’s daughter, and the reaper of War, who’s gone rogue. Although Ginny is very deadly herself, she’s having trouble against the reaper who can feed off of people’s fear and increase his own power. I won’t spoil where she gets help from, but it leads to a moment that’s beautifully told mostly through the art – more on that later.
The rest of the comic is heavy on themes of courage, death and loss, exploring everything from all the fallen soldiers to even the birds used to send messages. There’s also a letter written by DeConnick after the main story that talks a bit about the war itself, and now at least in the United States, a lot of schools don’t talk about it enough. The letter helps emphasize some of the meaning behind the poetic narration and is well worth the read.
Emma Rios’s art perfectly captures the comic’s tone, and often enhances the storytelling. Instead of relying on panels, most pages feel like large tapestries that contain a lot of hidden drawings and messages. For example, the first spread of the Ginny vs. War fight only shows one small moment, where War manages to stab Ginny in the gut. The rest of the image is framed by a hooded figure watching from the distance, with War hopping toward the viewer reflecting in the eye, Ginny’s name made of War’s red energy and a crow flying overhead. Another image shows them fighting in another poster-like page, where you follow the flow of red energy to see how the fight commences. Beyond the brilliant use of page space, facial expressions do a great job at conveying emotion, there’s often something interesting to look at in the backgrounds, and the final page of Ginny mourning over the shattered butterfly that used to be Alice is a sad yet effective way to end the comic. The colouring by Jordie Bellaire emphasizes the violence earlier in the comic with the overall red look, and the peace once the war ends with white mist representing the reaper of Courage.
Just like the rest of this series, this is a fantastic issue. Pretty Deadly won’t be for everyone, sure. The heavy poetic narration will be confusing to some, and others might not enjoy the somewhat vague storytelling at times. That said, there’s a reason why Pretty Deadly has such a loyal fan following. If a poetic mashup of a western, mythology, fairy tales and a war story interests you, then you should at least check this series out.