It’s been a year-and-a-half since the last issue of “Pretty Deadly” dropped. During that time, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos have tackled a wide breadth of other projects, including, for Ríos, the super fly “Island” magazine, which you should really be buying. Now, the band is back together, will they resettle into their groove, or are we looking at the comics version of Chinese Democracy?
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrated by Emma Ríos and Jordie Bellaire
KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (BITCH PLANET, Captain Marvel) & EMMA RÍOS (Dr. Strange, ISLAND) reunite for the continuing story of Deathface Ginny, Fox, and Sissy. The survivors of the battle against Death enter a new century, where they face fresh violence and the horrors of war.
“Pretty Deadly” #6 spends much of its time shucking off the elements of its first arc and setting up everything for the new one. It’s a transitory episode, meant to reacquaint and prepare us for this new world. True to style, it opens with Bunny and Butterfly waxing poetic about life and death while frollicking under the Tree of Life before it shifts to the Old West homestead where Sarah, a major ally to Sissy and a huge player in the last arc, lies on her deathbed. She’s about to be taken away when her family intervenes on her behalf, stopping her Reaper from finishing his job. Not everyone is present and accounted for to see her off, they argue. “What difference is it going to make for either of them?” her Reaper asks, but nevertheless agrees to wait. The only problem is, the one they’re waiting for, Sarah’s grandson, is overseas, deep in the trenches during World War I.
Many narrative elements quickly fall back into place. As a series, “Pretty Deadly” has embraced the idea of a Weird West, though it’s less the supernatural mayhem of “Sixth Gun” and more of the surreal tonal poems of Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain). Even with the new setting and time period, it doesn’t break away from that atmosphere.
Kelly Sue Deconnick maintains a fable-like voice in the script: the book comes across like a story that’s being sung rather than told. She’s in no rush to get anywhere, and that can be frustrating for people who want their serial narratives to have a more concrete structure; however, she provides so many unfolding and beautiful moments that it’s almost impossible to look away.
Emma Ríos’s art remains trippy and surreal. She’s an emotive illustrator, favoring close-ups of hands and eyes and mouths. She guides you through the page either like she’s dancing with you or fucking around with you — stacking the tiers through the center of the page, having characters break out and the story flow out of their blood, breaking the page in a dozen smaller panels — but either way it contributes to the book’s dream-like voice. Boosted by Jordie Bellaire’s earthy color palette, the world comes off as significantly imagined. Even at its weakest moments, even in the most scene-setting issues, “Pretty Deadly” is always fascinating to look at.
We also start to see a lot more of what will maintain this book for its run. DeConnick and Ríos make it clear they’re exploring the boundaries between order and chaos (the Old West and the world war settings also hammer this home). There’s a couple family sagas being established, and seeing that dynasty at play consistently makes for strong drama.
A lot of this gets pulled off because everyone involved works in tandem with each other. They’ve set up the rhythms and vibes of the story, and they trust each other to pull it off. “Pretty Deadly” #6 doesn’t offer a lot of new visual information or plot, yet, but you can feel something big is coming this way, that they’re gearing up for some reveal.
There’s not a lot we know at the end of this chapter, but we definitely have hints about what this next story arc is going to do. The story is probably not something that will unveil itself for months to come, but the tone and beat of the book remain exciting and endearing. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos want to deliver an engrossing read, and they’ve set up this world and its atmosphere so well that even a transitory issue succeeds.Continued below
Final Verdict: 8.4 – this is such a fun, weird, trippy, and beautiful comic and it’s nice to have it back.