Pretty Deadly is an Image Comics release from Kelly Sue DeConnck (Captain Marvel, Avengers Assemble) and Emma Rios (Doctor Strange: Season One).
And I’d say if you are willing to pick up the gauntlet DeConnick and Rios are laying down here you’ll be rewarded in time.
Because this story, despite throwing characters at us in an almost haphazard way, blending genres right, left and centre and coating the whole thing in hazy, dream-like artwork and colour, is intriguing.
The comic has already drawn parallels with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and I see no reason to dispute those parallels.
Yes, this is confusing, yes, it’s not a reader friendly first issue, but the quality is there.
The things that make it difficult are put there on purpose to challenge the reader. The reason I think this is because of the inclusion of at least three Tweets at the end of the book that say, “I really didn’t understand what was happening.”
Their inclusion almost seems triumphal.
It’s a defiant show of the team’s confidence in their pet project that they don’t compromise with a more linear introduction, a longer first issue or even an introduction to the main character until the very end of the issue.
You are either going to love or hate the following things:
- An opening narration by a dead rabbit and a butterfly
- Artwork so fluid it takes a while to interpret what is going on
- The Western setting paired with strong female lead characters
- A layout that owes more to Manga than modern day American comics
- A colour scheme that bathes its world in pink, yellow and brown hues
It is useful to have a basic plot outline in your mind before reading this comic for the first time. So here goes. Welcome to a world that resembles a Western in perpetual sunset. Our narrators, the above mentioned dead bunny and butterfly, start us off with the tale of Sissy and Fox, a young girl with mismatched eyes and a cloak made of vulture feathers and an old man who covers his eyes the better not to see the world.
From here the action speeds up and there is little time for formal introductions.
A man called Jonny has let an important document be stolen by Sissy. A woman called Big Alice isn’t messing about when she says she wants it back. She hunts Jonny down and then goes after Sissy guns blazing. Meanwhile Sissy and Fox are high-tailing it over the desert with their rag tag band of outlaws in tow, one of whom isn’t averse to taking pot shots at them from afar – who needs enemies when you got friends like that.
I won’t go any further, since a review should still leave you surprised by the story. But if you are willing to read and possibly re-read this the plot will eventually suck you in.
Reading a comic using the Comixology app
One last thing I should say about Pretty Deadly is that I read these first two issues on the my Google Nexus using the Comixology app.
This is the first time I have done this, not due to any tech-hating tendencies; rather I just never felt the need before. But due to a combination of having missed the first two print issues being in stock in my local comic shop, travelling and not having Wi-Fi at my disposal, I decided to download issues one and two and read them offline on my tablet.
At first I thought my screen would be too small to really take in the art work or read the script.
I was wrong.
The pages are beautifully optimised for the screen.
Reading full pages is easy and clear.
My ability to follow this story also hugely benefited from the app’s guided reading function.
The app zooms into one panel at a time. Smaller panels are seen whole. Sometimes a whole page layout is broken down into significant elements so you see things in order rather than all at once. The whole thing is pretty seamless and so well done you hardly notice it.
It’s very simple and very effective especially for a complicated story like Pretty Deadly.
I don’t think I’ll me moving my comic habit fully online.
Like the e-reader vs. paper books debate the online comic app certainly has it’s time and place and unlike the e-reader actually can enhance your enjoyment and understanding of a beautiful visual tale.