Anna: And we’re back! With a review of the final two issues of Pretty Deadly. After a delay of more than a month the final issue in the opening story arc is out. As the person in this discussion who read #5 last, I get to start. First: I wish there was one more issue. It’s a bit funny to start at the end, but I can’t help but think that this final issue should have been split into two.
Jeff: I agree. A lot happens in #5 which, when read with the previous four issues, clearly has a different pace. It is not just that there is a lot of action in the issue; the series has always had plenty of action. But the issue covers a lot of plot points and revelations and at times it felt like we were being told the plot instead of seeing it unfold.
Anna: There was a lot of narration by Bones Bunny. I couldn’t help but think that, if they had another issue to work with, there could have been more interaction between the characters, a little bit less voice-over.
Jeff: I wouldn’t harp on the compaction of plot in #5 if #4 had not been such an excellent book. This issue is where Pretty Deadly is at its best. We get expansive panels and whole pages with little or no words which allow us to focus on Emma Rios’s beautiful illustrations. We also get great action sequences in which the combatants dialogue moves the plot forward. Nearly as much is revealed in the penultimate issue as is revealed in the finale but these revelations come through action and dialogue, not voice-over.
Anna: Emma Rios’ work in these issues was really magnificent. I love that in #5, Rios tossed much of the panel structure and really just took to the full pages. Most of all, I think that showcased the color in a way that I’d never really noticed before. From one page to another, the color scheme was entirely different, and gave each page a unique feel. I think that the broad, expansive feel of the final issue benefited enormously from the range of color; just shows you how really talented Rios and Jordie Bellaire (who does colors) are!
Jeff: I love it when books break out of the panel structure. It gives what can often be a very rigid medium (both in terms of the stories told and in terms of how they are told) a freedom of form and energy. However, it can also make following the story difficult. One gets lost on the page, as CZF pointed out in his review of She-Hulk #3.
Anna: What did you think of the wrap-up? This afternoon, before I’d read it, I was whining, again, about how I don’t like Bones Bunny. I just think animals should be alive.* You told me that everything has to die. Were you channeling Fox? Prepping me for the story to come?
Jeff: Just helping you get in the mood. Death shadows over us for all our life and that shadow lays heavy on Pretty Deadly. There is a lot of talk since Frank Miller about comic books becoming darker (and, more recently, comic books movies). But for all that talk, there is very little death in comic books or films. Just think of how upset fans got with Man of Steel when Superman kills the villain, even though it stopped the villain from killing innocents. What is often meant by “dark” is a muted color pallet or a psychologically tormented hero, or villain without an ideology. In Pretty Deadly the colors are vibrant, the hero is sure of his goal, and the villain is not without purpose. Yet, Pretty Deadly is a dark comic because, like Ginny, it deals death to all involved.
Jeff: How do you see those two as different?
Anna: I guess that there are two ways to see it: the point of view of the outside story, the way that we, the world, are supposed to see it, and from the point of view of the little girl. For the latter, there is a tone of despair. She’s going to be stuck, as Death, for the rest of her life. It makes me think of Persephone, grabbed from Earth, and taken down to the Underworld. Bleak prospects for a young girl. But, for the rest of us, the story is just dark, rather than despairing. The whole story is about death – so of course it’s going to be dark – but there is also a sense that things are going to work how they should up here. It gives the dark story a positive light.
Jeff: True, bleak prospects for a young girl compared to a normal life. But the job of Death does not seem too bad. And, like Hades in the new Wonder Woman books, Death isn’t all bad. In the universe that Kelly Sue DeConnick is building the role of Death is not evil or even permanent. Rather Death is a necessary balancing force. But, this new view of Death raises questions about the role of Deathface Ginny. If death is the inevitable end, part of the natural order, what role does a death-dealing avenging spirit have?
Anna: These are all awesome questions – and why this is a great series. Sure, we’ve had some issues with components of individual books, but overall, it’s been just fantastic. And, overall, this story has laid solid groundwork for the next story arc.
Jeff: Yes it has. I am excited to see what the world looks like moving forward. What new characters we will meet and if any of the historical elements of the America West are brought in, such as the Indian Wars or the railroad. I would love to see Federal Troops face off against Ginny. Or a Robber Barron bent on industrialization. What are you looking forward too?
Anna: What I’m looking forward to the most in the next arc is, maybe, learning some more about the characters we already know, such as Fox. It’s a bit strange to be so fond of the male character in a story full of such strong female leads, but I still find him really engaging. Oh, and more art!
*All animals, of all types, all the time.
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.