Some comics you find, some comics friends recommend, but then there’s comics that find you, and this is exactly what Pretty Deadly was for me. I really don’t remember how I found Pretty Deadly. I’m pretty sure I saw it and totally judged a book by its cover; also I will read anything remotely resembling a spaghetti western. Long story short: holy crap, the mythology was amazing. Here were two women in the comic industry I had never heard of (way to go stereotypical male nerd), Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer) and Emma Rios (artist) presenting something uniquely alive, beautiful. If the first Arc was the alchemical narrative to craft the bones, the second Arc is the heart beating life and pumping blood into a thing never before seen. Pretty Deadly walks tall narratively and artistically, both working together to craft something truly poetic, and worthy of the title, ballad.
Pretty Deadly takes a pretty stark jump forward in time with the beginning of the second arc; the Great War has started, the story now focusing on a dying Sarah Fields holding out until the next full moon to see her son Cyrus one last time. At the same time, Sissy-now Death herself- is assembling the arrant reapers so as to tend the World Garden. Of course I won’t leave out Bones Bunny or Butterfly, another part of the mythos, who are actually narrating the whole thing for the audience while alluding to things through simple childhood teachings. The ability to blend our own mythology with an entirely unique mythos is no easy task. This astounds me. I was not prepared for what the first arc would birth, but seeing it grow in to what it has become is jaw dropping. The characters are established, with the story just getting started. It’s easy to understand who they are, while being afraid of what secrets they might hold and cards yet to be played.
Sissy now having taken the mantel of Death, struck me as the most contrasting change in character. She is not the little girl we knew in the first Arc. She might resemble her, but she has fully embraced who she is, and unlike the previous death, she actually cares deeply for her station. While much more serious than the Sissy from the last arc, it’s the compassion to get things done that drives her. Sissy while being quite a relatable character for the audience at first, by this point is something else entirely, something ancient, unknown.
The World Garden has needed tending for some time, and having Sissy be at the center of it all while Pretty Deadly’s second arc plays out around her is done with mastery. Giving the audience a home base in a sense, while letting the meat of the second arc run its course. Sissy might be Death but this story is about the reapers; Ginny, Big Alice, Fox, Johnny Coyote, Molly Raven, as well as introducing reapers, unfamiliar, yet anyone will know.
Going deeper into the reapers lore has been mythos bliss. The idea of having more than one reaper just clicks. Of course there would be different reapers representing different things, people die from all sorts of things. And, not in the physical sense, no, death in a philosophical sense; justice, vengeance, cruelty. This isn’t a story about vengeance anymore, this is a story about human nature, and the cruelty humans can bring upon one another. This is why having Cyrus (the boy to return home) in the middle of the Great War, is a perfect platform to represent the story its telling. Not only does it show the brutality with which people can devour themselves in, but also brings two new reapers to the fray, War riding on the back of Fear to bring these themes to life.
Not spoiling it here, but this is what makes this story so astounding and why I like the second arc more than the first. Cyrus coming face to face with many a reaper while battling his own demons/reapers is woven in a way that strikes notes most readers are familiar with. Just look up any world news and these themes are present every single day. These are things humanity has always been entrenched in, the graves are deep, and yet they seem to be bottomless. Pretty Deadly is a ballad alright, a ballad of humanity’s tale.
Deconnick’s ability to move the story along narratively in tangent with Rios is what makes Pretty Deadly work. I find collaboration when done in the manner that these two women are doing it is sometimes the best way to do it. They made it clear, that they would be communicating with their audience (as many comics do) when it came to the development process of Pretty Deadly. The whole way through the series they’ve been clear Pretty Deadly is an organic thing, a story telling itself as much as they are telling it. Sissy having two different colored eyes for instance (heterochromia), they didn’t know why they went with this but now it’s been made clear. Again, no spoilers.
Rios artistic ability is a huge factor in how Pretty Deadly flows, I had no idea that when seeing images and panels, Deconnick was moving dialog around in a way that was affected specifically by how an image looked. It brings a comic to life in a way that is hard to capture. I’ve always been big on imagining the smell/sound of the places I’m reading about. Pretty Deadly achieves this to the highest degree. The images while sometimes seeming dreamlike, are also quite gritty and raw. Every single thing in this comic is working together to make it the tale it is. It stays grounded in reality while also fully realizing the magic in its own tale. The team behind Pretty Deadly as a whole is what is pumping blood into this thing that is so easy to fall in love with.
While Deconnick/Rios might be driving force behind Pretty Deadly, a nod, plus some, has to go to colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Clayton Cowles. These two commit just as much to bringing Pretty Deadly to life as Deconnick/Rios. Seriously, the idea behind War/Fear is heavily based around the color scheme created around them, and Deconnick lets you know this! Having this representation of color/lettering has always been important to any comic, but working as a team the way Pretty Deadly does is just one more piece that makes this comic so worth it.
Like many great comics out right now, Pretty Deadly is touching on things that are a semblance of our own world, and themes that our constantly present throughout history, it’s how the tale is told that makes for a mythos worth following, and Pretty Deadly has more than fanned the flame. Bringing a world to life, that is astounding and terrifying all at once. As aforementioned, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Pretty Deadly, Vol.2 can be found online or grab your horse and ride on over to your local comic shop.