Michelle Herbert reviews Pretty Deadly Vol. 1: The Shrike…
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.
Pretty Deadly Vol. 1 is a graphic novel that follows the story of two girls who are much more than they first appear to be, as told by Bunny and Butterfly. They lead us into this mythical western and introduce us to an extraordinary story about life, death, loss and hope.
Bunny and Butterfly introduce us to Sissy, a young girl whose guardian is a man called Fox. They travel this land recounting The Song of Deathface Ginny which focuses on The Mason and his overwhelming love for his wife Beauty and how he took her for granted. Deathface Ginny is by all accounts a haunting figure, a fine gunslinger and also skilled with a sword. Sissy and Ginny’s lives are entwined on many layers, which are masterfully revealed throughout the volume.
Along with Ginny, Sissy and Fox we meet a host of interesting characters along the way. Some are good and some are bad, but these aren’t their defining features; most have secrets that if revealed bring an added depth to the story. Pretty Deadly is a character-driven story that gives us a lot of information without feeling overwhelmed, there is a lot of duality amongst the characters and they make for some interesting dynamics, especially when you find out how these characters meet and why they act like they do.
The art work in this volume is incredible. The characters are drawn against grand vistas of open sky, reminiscent of the Hollywood Westerns of the past. The sky is shown in different hues from blue, purple and orange depending on where you are in the story, nothing feels static. Some of the artwork feels like they could be dreamscapes. The colours on the page also enhance the action; issue 2 in particular has a lot more violence, which is drenched in orange, making the fight scenes feel more fluid.
DeConnick now has a large and diverse body of work, which includes a huge cast of characters. Some are creator owned, whilst others are long running characters from larger comic companies, and each story she writes brings something new to the world of comics. With Pretty Deadly the lyrical nature of the story blends seamlessly with the artwork of Emma Rios and the colours of Jordie Bellaire; I wanted to continue staring at the pages long after I had read the dialogue and then go back to reread the page again. There is something hypnotic about this book, I feel like it resonates with my soul.