Pretty Deadly 10 (June 2016)

Pretty Deadly #10

Pretty Deadly wraps up its second arc with the series’s standard mix of action and humanism. Standard isn’t a pejorative; creators DeConnick and Rios have always taken a singular approach to genre with the comic. They refuse to firmly foot in any–this arc is a WWI story and the story of a black family in 1918(?) America–they also refuse to rely on any genre tropes, yet there’s always a familiarity with them. Pretty Deadly is an intentionally tough comic to digest. The digestion process is where DeConnick and Rios are able to affect the reader the most.

About half this issue is resolution to the arc, which suggests a single sitting read of the arc might be in order, and the other half is mostly action. Except it’s Rios’s mystical, yet very physical, action. There’s a fluidity to the movement in the mystical action–the reader has to find their own entry point and then follow the movement across the page. Lots of full page spreads here–again, it’s the last issue in the arc, so there need to be money shots. Rios fills them with glorious dread.

While DeConnick wraps up for the arc’s new characters, she does make a few hints to Deadly’s future. But as Pretty Deadly moves across time periods–it started as a Western–DeConnick opens it up more. The implications of the mystical world of the Reapers aren’t just how it relates to the present action of the arc. DeConnick and Rios are gradually introducing a much bigger world.

Pretty Deadly is simultaneously loud and quiet, thrilling and reserved. It’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 9 (April 2016)

Pretty Deadly #9

Pretty Deadly is such a strange book. Rios’s art is perfect. She’s got a fable to do, the World War I battlefield, the mystical stuff. It’s all perfect. She’s controlled in showing the horrific nature of combat, very precise. The comic is visually unsettling, which is an ideal match for DeConnick’s approach to the script. It’s meticulous while still being confusing.

With Deadly, I always wonder if reading it three times an issue, then again in the trade, would be the best way to get all of it. DeConnick has so much going on–and toggles between things (you’ve got to love how she basically is doing traditional, juxtaposed comic book action), plus there’s the fable to figure in.

It’s serious work. I think I love that aspect of Pretty Deadly the most. It’s very, very serious. Rios and DeConnick aren’t messing around. If there’s a smile in the issue (and I don’t think there is one this issue), it’s because DeConnick is letting the reader have it. Mystical embodiments of war and death aren’t funny. The First World War isn’t funny. It’s not a gag. It’s a backdrop for DeConnick and Rios’s explorations.

I’ll read all again someday, once it’s finished. I want that experience.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 8 (February 2016)

Pretty Deadly #8

Pretty Deadly has become a book I savor. DeConnick and Rios have lost their Western setting–though it does still play a part visually and thematically–and gotten into World War I. The trenches. Deadly has become a war comic.

Except the magic is different. It’s still evil, bad magic, but it doesn’t affect the war comic’s protagonist in the same way it did in the series’s first arc. He’s far more the subject of the plot than an actor in it. That narrative distance works because of both DeConnick and Rios’s individual contributions.

When the comic moves between subplots, Rios has subtle changes in style. Sometimes in the level of detail, sometimes in figures’ fluidity. There’s a flow to Deadly, weaving between the subplots.

Pretty Deadly is a confusing, dense read. DeConnick relies on Rios to help make it easier to read while also contributing to the density. DeConnick doesn’t want any grounding to the supernatural. It’s not science, it’s not quantum physics, it’s supernatural. Accepting it–and not dwelling on it–is one of the series’s agreements with the reader. DeConnick doesn’t allow any alternatives.

And, yet, she isn’t hostile about it. Pretty Deadly goes out of its way to be welcoming. It’s endearing–and even makes the really disturbing villains endearing.

It’s really good. This issue isn’t one of the best either. And it’s still really good.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 6 (November 2015)

Pretty Deadly #6

I missed Pretty Deadly. I forgot what it was like to read a comic aware of its genre possibilities, acknowledging of them to some degree, but entirely disinterested in taking part. As a result, the comic is its own thing, something strange and ethereal and beautiful from DeConnick and Rios.

This issue definitely starts off a new arc, dealing with the descendants of the previous characters (set in World War I, at home and in France). DeConnick doesn’t introduce or reintroduce anyone (the text prologue has very little to do with the majority of the issue). Instead, it’s just time to read Pretty Deadly again.

The amount of work Rios and DeConnick put into the visual construction of the comic is reason alone to read it. It’s cohesive, yet full of little visual sequences–not subplots as much as narrative tangents–all with a mildly different approach.

DeConnick’s thoughtful, deliberate characterizations keep it from ever getting too hostile to distracted readers. Even though there’s a fantastical, dreary, magical world, because the characters are able to navigate it, so is the reader.

It’s great to have it back.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Island 1 (July 2015)

Island #1

Island is an anthology series. I didn’t realize it was an anthology series with multiple creators and stories per issue. It feels like Dark Horse Presents, actually. Maybe a bit more indie, but basically it’s DHP. And being the new DHP is fine because the new DHP hasn’t done it.

There are three stories–one from Emma Rios, one from Brandon Graham (who’s also the editor of Island) and one from Ludroe. They’re all open-minded so they can continue. Two of them are all right. Ludroe’s skating thing isn’t my cup of tea. There’s no writing to it (besides alleycats being a gang of talking cats), no constraint.

Rios’s story is okay. The sci-fi setting being background to the characters is nice and some of the art’s good (not the action though).

Graham’s story is craziness and wonderfulness. He gloriously trumps continuity and expectation with ambition and exploration.

CREDITS

Contributors, Marian Churchland, Emma Rios, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brandon Graham and Ludroe; publisher, Image Comics.

Bitch Planet 3 (February 2015)

Bitch Planet #3

Robert Wilson IV’s guest art on this issue of Bitch Planet leaves a lot to be desired. Wilson seems like he wants to do cheesecake–or at least something more appropriate for Archie–and writer DeConnick doesn’t do anything with that sensibility. Her story’s the very tough tale of one of the convicts and how she got to Bitch Planet.

Which is another problem. Third issue is way too soon for a couple things. First, obviously, a fill-in artist with a completely different style than the regular series artist. Second, a character origin story. The character isn’t distinctive enough to remember and this issue doesn’t make her more memorable in the context of the regular story.

DeConnick also tells a lot of tales of the future in this issue, lots of the patriarchal society. It’s all pretty bland sci-fi stuff. And Wilson’s art’s wrong for it too.

Eh.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Robert Wilson IV; colorist, Cris Peter; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Image Comics.

Bitch Planet 2 (January 2015)

Bitch Planet #2

This issue of Bitch Planet, as far as DeConnick’s technical writing goes, is amazing. It’s the best plotted, best constructed comic I’ve read in a long time. The balance of talking heads to action sequences, how DeConnick and De Landro work those action sequences out, it’s phenomenal.

But I still don’t care.

DeConnick reveals the future is a little bit Hunger Games, little bit Rollerball, little bit Running Man, all mixed in with a seventies exploitation film. The characters are amusing–oh, wait, the bad guy is even a Mr. Big-type villain–but the cast in the prison is amusing.

The best thing Bitch Planet has going for it is DeConnick’s script, which makes wonderful connections and is very gradual, very careful with how it leads the reader through the narrative. The rest of the comic is the MacGuffin. Would it be nice if it all connected?

Eh.

Maybe?

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Valentine De Landro; colorist, Cris Peters; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Image Comics.

Bitch Planet 1 (December 2014)

Bitch Planet #1

The back matter of Bitch Planet describes a bait and switch in the issue. The person writing said back matter doesn’t use “bait and switch” as a pejorative phrase, just a description.

But she is correct–it is a bait and switch–and I’m being pejorative.

Bitch Planet is a really cool idea. Oppressive future society, interplanetary travel, women in prison, but not exploitative. What could be an awesome sci-fi comic–and still can be a good one–is a little too straightforward.

It’s like writer Kelly Sue DeConnick had a property with a sensational title and a great concept and she ran with it as an important property instead of a solid story. The multiple surprises–or bait and switches–are cheap. They distract from what the story could be to instead… I don’t know… give Bitch Planet weight.

Nice art from Valentine De Landro.

It’s rather problematic.

C+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Valentine De Landro; colorist, Cris Peters; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 5 (April 2014)

Pretty Deadly #5

DeConnick has a decent finish for the end of the first Pretty Deadly arc. There’s something missing, like she rushed through resolving the showdown in order to get to the next showdown. It’s hurried and there’s little sense of the journey the characters take.

There’s also a lot of narration through the issue–the framing sequence has never felt so prevalent. The characters all become the subject of this narration and no longer the leads in it.

Still, Rios’s art is gorgeous and DeConnick gets in some good character moments. There’s just not enough room for all the things they’re imagining. It feels undeveloped, especially when it comes to the big finale. There’s a mix of action and character stuff and neither really gets the deserved amount of attention.

Deadly has been able to be confusing and rewarding at the same time. Here, DeConnick tries too hard to be intelligible.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 4 (January 2014)

Pretty deadly 04

A real cast list. All I ask for is a real cast list. It’s got to make sense–and even I figured out the main girl’s destiny–but a cheat sheet would be so helpful. I probably could look online, couldn’t I?

But I like being off balance with Pretty Deadly. Something about Rios’s art makes discovering story connections, instead of worrying about them before reading, a more pleasing reading experience.

This issue might have DeConnick’s first tranquil scene in the series–Death talking to his love (more her talking to him). It’s a strange, beautiful, sad scene.

There’s also a big fight scene. Rios does fine with it, but it goes on way too long. Rios has a lyrical quality to her action, especially this fight–told mostly in long shots–and the horizontal panels get a wee long in the tooth.

DeConnick’s setting up for something rather big.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Ghost 1 (December 2013)

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Ghost is a fairly amusing read with great Ryan Sook art. Or maybe Ghost is an excellent read from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chris Sebela with decent art. It changes from page to page. DeConnick writes well but doesn’t have a good plot. She does wonders with the characters.

Sook is responsible for taking that okay but bland script and making it bold. He does. It’s pulpy, it’s noir, it’s very visually Chicago–Sook isn’t lazy at all. Oh, and there are demons. But I don’t remember anything except the scenery, maybe some of the noir angles, and neither memorable moment seems enough. Because the art is kind of bland too.

Sook doesn’t go crazy, DeConnick doesn’t go crazy. Ghost would be the perfect comic to pick up from time to time without hunting it down–there’s nothing compelling. The writers don’t conceive a protagonist so much as a subject.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chris Sebela; artist, Ryan Sook; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Richard Starkings; editors, Everett Patterson and Patrick Thorpe; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Pretty Deadly 3 (December 2013)

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The issue opens with a recap of the previous issues. Only it’s more confusing than anything else–DeConnick has so much going on, what with mixing a Western with the supernatural and all. The recap implies someone might actually be able to follow the comic… and, if one out there is following the story without taking notes, more power to them.

But I tend to think Pretty Deadly works so well because it doesn’t need to make sense necessarily. Not along the way. Along the way, DeConnick writes good scenes and Rios draws good scenes and they all add up to something in the end.

It’s still a Western after all. These guys are doing this thing over here, those guys are looking for the first guys and so on. The rest of it doesn’t matter too much. The details make Deadly different, but it’s a Western; a good one.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 2 (November 2013)

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I want to see DeConnick’s script for this comic, just because I want to know how much Rios comes up with on her own and how much is already in the script. Because there’s a lot I can’t imagine someone getting from just the text of a script. There’s a big action sequence too and that action is very straightforward (compared to the rest of the comic) but the scenes leading up to the action? They’re bewildering.

As a rule, Westerns tend to be obvious. Probably because the genre started in mainstream filmmaking. Pretty Deadly isn’t just revisionist because it’s about women or non-whites; DeConnick and Rios are trying tell their story in the most confrontational way they can find. Not just for a Western either… it’s hard to think of another comic demanding so much of its reader.

They’re successful in their efforts. Maybe not entirely, but enough.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Pretty Deadly 1 (October 2013)

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I think Pretty Deadly is off to a good start but it’s hard to say for sure. Kelly Sue DeConnick is doing a maybe supernaturally themed Western and, if she’s not, she’s doing revisionist Western. Or she’s doing both at once.

After this first issue, I think the revisionism is clear–she and artist Emma Rios are looking at female characters in the Old West. More, the protagonist of the comic is a kid. It’s not clear how old she’s supposed to be, probably twelve or thirteen; she and an old blind guy apparently go from town to town and tell stories for tips. The storytelling sequence is real rough going. Rios goes wild with it. The enthusiasm gets it through.

The second half of the issue reveals the problem–the kid, Sissy, she stole something she shouldn’t have. Now there’s the bad woman after her.

Deadly’s competent and interesting.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Sigrid Ellis; publisher, Image Comics.

Girl Comics 3 (September 2010)

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Colleen Coover does another lame intro for issue. It seems better than usual, probably because of the atrocious first story, from Marjorie Liu and Sara Pichelli. It’s a Wolverine and Jubilee talking heads story; Liu’s dialogue is indescribably bad.

Next is another stupid Power Pack story from long-time writer Louise Simonson. June Brigman and Rebecca Buchman’s art is nearly okay, but clearly not ready for prime time.

Lea Hernandez’s attempt at being “cute” with Wolverine and Magneto is lame.

Ann Nocenti and Molly Crabapple do a Typhoid Mary story. The indie art doesn’t fit the poorly written story.

Even Kelly Sue Deconnick’s story is weak. The dialogue’s good, the narration’s not. And Adriana Melo and Mariah Benes do nineties Image imitations.

Carla Speed McNeil has Kitty Pryde and Wolveine go to a superhero bar. It’s pointless, but better than anything else in the issue.

Girl Comics is a debacle.

CREDITS

Introduction; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Colleen Coover. Things That Never Change; writer, Marjorie Liu; artist, Sara Pichelli; colorist, Rachelle Rosenberg; letterer, Kathleen Marinaccio. The Job; writer, Louise Simonson; penciller, June Brigman; inker, Rebecca Buchman; colorist, Ronda Pattinson; letterer, Marinaccio. “A Moving Experience”; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Lea Hernandez. Blind Spot; writer, Ann Nocenti; artist and colorist, Molly Crabapple; letterer, Star St. Germain. Chaos Theory; writer, Kelly Sue Deconnick; penciller, Adriana Melo; inker, Mariah Benes; colorist, Cris Peter; letterer, Marinaccio. Mixology; writer, artist and letterer, Carla Speed McNeil; colorist, Ronda Pattinson. Editors, Lauren Sankovitch, Sana Amanat, Rachel Pinnelas and Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Rescue 1 (July 2010)

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So in this issue of Rescue—oh, wait, no, it’s the only issue of Rescue, which is a travesty (if that description doesn’t give you an idea of the book in advance…)—is set during an Invincible Iron Man arc where Pepper hallucinates talking to her dead husband.

Her dead husband is, for those who don’t follow Iron Man (like me), Happy Hogan. The limo driver from the movies.

Anyway, Pepper recounts this incident where she saved some people and didn’t save some people. DeConnick doesn’t reinvent the wheel here—Pepper the superhero has always been Invincible’s greatest creation, just because of the way Pepper approaches her altruistic activities.

But what DeConnick does do is put together a compelling story and gives Pepper a great voice.

Andrea Mutti’s art is a little rough, but the writing makes up for it.

I wish it was a series, not a one-shot.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Andrea Mutti; colorist, Jose Villarrubia; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Osborn 5 (June 2011)

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DeConnick brings Osborn to a depressingly lesser conclusion. She needed another issue. She fast forwards a few weeks and everything’s resolved. It provides a nice narrative device (a Congressional hearing) but it’s not satisfying at all. Worse is the decision to narrate from Norah the reporter.

Norah is, as Norman points out, not special. She’s ordinary in an extraordinary world and if DeConnick had any particular insight into her, I’d have loved to see a Marvels revamp by DeConnick and Rios. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any special insight because Norah’s a lame character. Instead of Veronica Mars, she’s barely Carrie from “Sex in the City.” Strange how gender works in the funny pages.

As for the art… Becky Cloonan isn’t on Rios’s level. I couldn’t identify Cloonan but a lot of the issue looked wrong.

It’s well-written and often beautifully illustrated, but it should’ve (and could’ve) been even better.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios and Becky Cloonan; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Osborn 4 (May 2011)

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So, yes, it turns out—unfortunately—I was right. Norman Osborn is a megalomaniac who needs an audience, so he keeps Norah the reporter alive. However, his sidekicks are very bad people who would not. But still they hang out with her. In fact, I wish Osborn was an issue longer because DeConnick has such a great time writing Norah with the supervillains.

By pairing Norah with Norman here, Rios gets to combine her two styles on the series and it’s no surprise the relatively calmer Norah art is moved aside for the frantic Norman art everywhere. The result is a visual feast—definitely the best art so far in the series.

DeConnick’s script continues to be really smart as well as engaging—setting Norman up against the Senator, turning her into the antagonist and toning Norman down to be a suitable protagonist finally… it all works.

It’s quite good.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Osborn 3 (April 2011)

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There’s a lot of great stuff in this issue of Osborn—my favorite is the way DeConnick mostly spends the non-Norman time with the senator, making it very different than what I expected. So after the utterly realistic scene where the Democrat senator realizes she’s getting blamed for sending Norman to a secret prison (shockingly, her Republican “friend” betrays her), DeConnick throws reality out the window.

Norah Winters has been present at Norman’s taking over the prison, up in an observation booth. He discovers her and brings her down to witness his return. Now, realistically, he’d have her torn into pieces or tortured or whatever. But he’s a supervillain, so he’s going to Bond villain her and bring her along. He hasn’t yet, but leaving her alive for a second makes it foreseeable.

And DeConnick’s otherwise thoughtful comic book becomes absurd.

It’s still good and the Rios art’s beautiful.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Osborn 2 (February 2011)

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Peter Parker fails to show up again this issue for more premarital sex, which is disappointing, but otherwise DeConnick is in fine form. Setting up a cult centered around Norman Osborn is a good plot point, as are some of the smaller developments. DeConnick knows how to tightly wind scenes and she’d probably do really well on a horror book.

Rios also continues to impress. She basically has the one style, but there’s intensity. Norman gets more feverish lines while the stuff at the Daily Bugle is far cleaner.

As for the Bugle, Norah Winters is still central to that side of the story. But Winters’s place at the paper, Marvel Universe or not, seems unrealistic. It feels like DeConnick is saddled with the cast and she’s having troubles making Winters work.

But all the Norman and supervillain stuff? It’s all great.

Osborn is, surprisingly or not, an excellent series.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Osborn 1 (January 2011)

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The first thing I noticed about Osborn is the Emma Rios artwork. She reminds of Paul Pope in a lot of ways. She’s very good, able to mix the implied evil and then the lighter comic moments with the Daily Bugle cast.

The second thing I noticed was the implication Peter Parker was rushing off a reporter to engage in some sort of sexual congress, possibility receiving the very clearly implied fellatio from his female colleague. I’m not up on my Spider-Man, so I don’t know if he’s dating her but it doesn’t seem like it. Does Disney know about this series?

Kelly Sue DeConnick is a smart writer, mixing the sensationalism (Norman Osborn’s a celebrity in the Marvel Universe, after all) with the more mundane newspaper reporting and prison procedures.

The Warren Ellis backup is cute (the Jamie McKelvie art helps on that front) but sort of unnecessary.

CREDITS

Writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick; artist, Emma Rios; colorists, José Villarrubia and Matt Wilson. The Prime of Miss June Covington; writer, Warren Ellis; artist, Jamie McKelvie; colorist, Wilson. Letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors, Alejandro Arbona and Stephen Wacker; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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