Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pretty Deadly Vol 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Pretty Deadly Vol 1: The Shrike written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Emma Rios is the first volume of a comic series/serialised graphic novel, containing issues #1–5. To summarise, it's a western about death, his daughter, and another girl.

KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) and EMMA RÍOS (Dr. Strange, Osborn) present the collected opening arc of their surprise-hit series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher. Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

I don't really like westerns that much and I only read this because a) it came highly recommended by some friends and b) because I've liked everything else DeConnick has done. I probably should've stuck to my first instinct of not liking westerns, though. (I think it's a combination of the gun culture and the general Americaness.) To be fair, Pretty Deadly is as much fantasy as it is western, but still. It more or less tells the origin story of Death's daughter with a focus on other character's whose relationship to that story isn't immediately obvious.

My favourite part of Pretty Deadly was the opening (per issue) narration by a butterfly and a skeleton rabbit. They were morbidly cute and framed the story nicely, putting the story in context at the start and the end. There were some non sequiturs in the middle issues, but those were still fun. So that was the highlight for me. I also liked Sissy, who struck me as more of a central character than Ginny, Death's daughter. That said, Sissy was one of the people telling Ginny's story and enabling it to happen.

Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of the art style. It's not that I didn't like it as art (and unlike some comic art, it definitely wasn't offensive), but I found it difficult to follow. A lot of the story is told through the art with only sparse words and I found I didn't take that in as well as I would have hoped. I'm not sure that more words would have helped because the presentation very much fit with the overall style. I think the busyness of many of the panels was the real culprit. There were times I felt a bit lost and had to do more work keeping up with the story than I would prefer for a comic. This was especially true of the scenes set in Death's domain (possibly a combination of the dark colours and large amount of small detail).

I haven't yet decided whether I'll be reading Volume Two. It won't be out for something like a year, so I have a while yet in which to decide. I would suggest having a look at the art style before committing to reading Pretty Deadly and I should point out that the cover is pretty representative of the interiors (albeit larger, obviously). On the other hand, the story itself is one that I think would appeal to a lot of spec fic fans, especially those that also enjoy the western genre and stories about anthropomorphic Death.

3.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Image Comics
Series: Pretty Deadly Vol 1, containing issues #1–5. There will apparently be a volume 2, but beyond that is a mystery.
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Non-Amazon-affiliated online book shop

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