JEFF: Anna, the second and third issues of Pretty Deadly are out and are a testament to how difficult it can be to write a good serial. After what I thought was a brilliant issue 1, issue 2 was mediocre at best. This happens in television all the time. After a meticulously crafted pilot, the second episode is often a letdown. This early in a new series, you can lose your audience with just one bad episode.
ANNA: But issue 3 makes up for that letdown, I think. I was not particularly excited to read the third issue, after the generally “meh” feelings that I had about the second one. I tend to believe that in series, book, movie, comic, what have you, there tends to be a lull where there is general story building – and the second issue falls into that. But the third one picks up again on the promised greatness of the first issue.
J: It’s interesting, Anna, that you describe issue 2 as a lull for general story building. I felt the opposite. After number 1, with all the talking and character introduction, I thought number 2 was dominated by sex and violence and had very little story. It was almost as if Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios felt the need to make-up for the lack of action in the first issue by having nothing but action in the second.
A: I felt like issue 2 was trying to move us forward, to have us meet new characters, and to understand, in a different way than in the first issue, how the characters interact and exist in this universe. Issue 3, though, returns to the first issue, with the background storytelling and exposition.
J: That’s true. The newest issue fleshes out the backstory. It also provides several twists on what we were told in the first issue. In fact, almost every character we thought was evil in issue one now seems to be good and every hero we thought we had in the first issue might now be a villain. There are some fascinating roll reversals here and I am impressed with how efficiently and convincingly DeConnick has pulled them off.
A: I’m not convinced yet that everyone we thought was good was evil, and everyone we thought was evil is good. I think in Deathface Ginny we might have a character more like Walter White, trying to provide for his family, or early Magneto, trying to protect mutants. The person who is our hero, so to speak, might be doing evil things, but they are motivated by a desire to help or “do good,” so we’re routing for them anyway. But, that’s something I don’t think that we can decide at this point. The characters need to do some more, before I can make a final decision.
J: I guess you’re right. It is still too early to make any definitive statements about the motivations of the characters. There is a lot more storytelling to be done (although there are only 2 more issues in this opening arc).
There’s also a lot more magical realism in the comic then I expected. DeConnick keeps mentioning Sergio Leone as an inspiration. I see much more of Blood Meridian in the series then Spaghetti Western. We continue to hear the story as told by Bones Bunny. The dead transmute into butterflies, crows deliver dire warnings, biblical floods arise, and we see the birth of a beast at a place where all the blood ever spilled on the earth meets to form a giant sanguine stream.
A: As someone who is not a fan of magical realism generally, I’m not finding it to be too much. But, I suppose, that in the universe that’s been created, magical realism isn’t out of line. The world is already so diverse from our own, and the story being told is so remarkable, that it really doesn’t seem unrealistic.
J: Anna, we’ve talked a lot about DeConnick and her script. I think we need to discuss Rios’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s coloring.
A: I still think that the first issue is the most beautiful. The second was dark and grim, and even though there was minimal conversation, leaving room for a lot more illustration, the colors were so dark that I didn’t find myself enjoying it. The third was much a return to the first, in my opinion. But, what did you think, Jeff?
J: I agree. The second issue was visually and narratively dark. There was a lot of space on the page devoted to the fight scene and a lot of grisly violence. However, I felt the fight scene still came off a bit muddled. With two tall dark haired women dressed in black it was sometimes difficult to tell who was doing what. Also, what’s with gunslingers using swords? For a Western, there is an awful lot of swordplay.
A: Well, swordplay looks better than guns, doesn’t it? It’s much more dramatic and visually impressive to have someone swing a sword than just bust out a gun. Like the second, there are lots of swords in the third but the colors are much lighter than the second. Different locations tend to have different color schemes. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll just say that the parched land that our primary story exists on is yellow and hot white while different characters bring in greys and blacks and blues, as appropriate.
J: I found the scene with Death and a young Ginny to be very striking. Amidst all the darkness, Ginny’s red dress is stark. Then, across the page we see that same red in the river of blood flowing beneath dark, troubled gray skies. When we turn the page we are in a different part of the story but that troubled sky remains and has opened up filling the earth with a dark gray flood. The visual cues used to bridge one storyline with another are one of my favorite elements of Rios and Bellaire’s work, and of the book in general. Any final thoughts?
A: After a somewhat disappointing second showing, the third issue is as strong as the first. I’m excited to see how the opening arc wraps up over the next two issues!
Previously: Pretty Deadly #1
Anna and Jeff Michler contributed this article to The Stake. Anna and Jeff are both development economists finishing their PhDs at Purdue. They enjoy reading and discussing television and graphic novels together when they are not debating theories of economic growth.