***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD, READ WITH CAUTION***
So… Death has a daughter now?
Not gonna’ lie, the first three or so pages of this comic are simply beautiful. They play out like a film with exposition through narration, which really doesn’t reveal anything about the plot, but it does set the tone for what is to come.
Truth be told, I haven’t read any of DeConnick’s previous work before reading this issue, so this probably won’t be the most reliable of reviews, but I’ll do the best I can.
Right off the bat, I can tell you one thing that will definitely grab your attention about this book: it’s pretty. Actually, scratch that last part. It’s beautiful. Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire go hand in hand in producing some of the best art you’ll see in a while from a comic, the former working on pencils while the latter works on the colors. If you’re the type that complains of lack of colors in comics for the sake of a gritty, realistic feel (do such complaints exist?), you won’t have any faults with Pretty Deadly. It’s colorful and simply gorgeous at the same time.
As for the plot? I gotta’ say, it’s not bad at all. And it’s not good either. Well, it is, but… how can I say this? Quite simply, Pretty Deadly takes the appearance of western, but it interweaves different genres into its main plot. It develops its main plot through the telling of an old fable through two of its characters in a panel setup that is very experimental but rewarding. The old tale tells of Death falling in love with a Beauty and thus giving birth to a Daughter. Those are the simple parts of the book. The rest will have you questioning about the interactions between these two main characters and other characters. There are hints of danger looming around certain corners, but you won’t really know why. One particular character, Big Alice I believe her name is, is presented as very threatening and deadly, but you really won’t know why at first. In fact, while we’re on this subject, you won’t see Death’s Daughter, Ginny as she’s called, until the very last page.
The book doesn’t reveal a lot, and at times it can get a bit confusing, so re-reads of certain pages will be necessary. And yet that’s what makes this book so rewarding: that it’s very ambiguous and vague and doesn’t spill many of its secrets. It will keep you guessing until the next installment is released. While most #1 issues take their debut to establish their universe and introduce many of their characters, Pretty Deadly opts to instead take that of a different route, and establish key concepts, themes and motifs, and most importantly, the tone, that you’re sure to see more of as the story develops. It also possesses a different narrative structure that it uses to tell its story, which may shun certain readers expecting a more straightforward. Nevertheless, it’s all very intriguing and just knowing so little of what DeConnick, Rios, and Bellaire have created is what is making me want to know more.
FINAL VERDICT: Pretty Deadly #1 is a beautiful piece of work. In my humble opinion, I don’t think you’ll find a better looking comic besides SAGA in terms of the art department, at least when it comes to creator-owned work. It’s very different from other comics you’ll read, and refuses to play by many of the rules. It takes many risks in trying to establish the story it wants to tell, with generally excellent results. I think it would be fair to call Pretty Deadly as being part of the poetry section of comics, in that it’s very poetic in its language, and that it’s definitely not for everyone. However, those patient and willing to give the book a chance, you’ll discover the beauty between the lines.