Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Emma Rios
Release Date: October 23, 2013
The western is more restricted by convention than almost any other genre. Most westerns either live up to the genre’s long-standing clichés or exist primarily to examine or refute them. Pretty Deadly deals in vengeance, perhaps the most essential western theme, but little else about this comic sticks to the standard rulebook. Death hangs heavy over this book, from the bunny whose face is ripped apart in the early pages to the dramatic last-page reveal of Deathface Ginny, a mythological “wraith of rage” and “hunter of men who have sinned” whose origin is recounted at length via song early in the issue. Take whatever “cowboy as grim reaper” avatar you can think of, switch its gender and drop it into a comic and you’ve got Ginny, an imposing, black-clad spirit of vengeance sired by Death itself.
Pretty Deadly #1 is basically a long introduction for this rustic wraith, building excitement for her eventual appearance. She’s preceded by a duo of storytellers, a young woman with Heterochromia iridum who wears a cloak made of vulture feathers (Sissy), and a large, old, blind gunfighter (Dog). The pair basically acts as Ginny’s heralds, singing the song of her origin in an old western frontier town, but it’s not clear if that relationship is intentional or not. So it’s a comic almost entirely about one character who is barely in it. This is actually an effective way to get us interested in the story, introducing a variety of characters without burying them under the nominal lead — we’re now curious about the relationship between Sissy and Dog and their backstories, while also excited to see what sort of vengeance Ginny has in store for the town. Also, it’s nice to see such a diverse and multicultural cast in a Western.
DeConnick’s script, heavy on myth and metaphor, is ably realized by Emma Rios’ expressionist art, with its thickets of rough lines. Her flat, slightly abstracted figures give a sense of heightened reality that fits the script. That tone is also reinforced by Jordie Bellaire’s dark and ruddy palette, which often has a supernatural glint. Art and story alike refute our expectations, making Pretty Deadly feel less like a western than a new myth.