Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pretty Deadly, Volume One: The Shrike


There was a big fuss made late last year when a retailer, after being asked what his opinion of PRETTY DEADLY #1 was by some customers, held up a copy and ripped it to shreds.Since nothing can ever be private anymore, one of those customers took a picture and posted it online, and hell followed with it. Said retailer, Steven LeClaire, owner of Comics Ink in Culver City, California, later apologized (After getting the customary bucket of shit from every nosy person on the internet and in the comic-book industry), by saying “For dramatic effect, I ripped a copy of the book after giving my review. I personally found the book lacking a coherent storyline and the art too muddy to follow. That was my opinion. The book was still on the shelves for sale for all those who wanted it. I made a mistake of thinking I was having a private talk with a small group of friends. I apologize for my actions.”
There were a few other reviews from sources that I trusted that said pretty much the same thing.
So it was with low expectations that I cracked open (As much as you can "crack open" a digital edition....) PRETTY DEADLY, VOLUME ONE: THE SHRIKE.
Maybe those low expectations helped, because I really liked this book.

 I'm not going to give much of an analysis here, because this is one of those books that is best appreciated if the reader goes in (Relatively...) cold, as I did.All I'll say is that PRETTY DEADLY deftly combines the Weird Western genre with Dark Fantasy and a twinge of Horror, and makes a concoction all it's own. Fans of SAGA and THE SANDMAN will not be disappointed with writer Kelly Sue Deconnick's dark, moody tale.

 That said, I am not a fan of artist Emma Rios. Most of her art is perfectly serviceable, but she has more than her fair share of panels, and frequently important panels, where I could not tell what the hell she was trying to convey. As Steven LeClaire said in his quote above, her art is "too muddy to follow." I think I'm spoiled, since I grew up reading comics by people that could not only draw, but could tell a story through those images. People like John and Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, John Byrne, Frank Miller...you could look at their art, without word balloons or text, and still follow the thread of the story. Their art flowed, their storytelling aided and complimented the writing perfectly. Deconnick's story is actually hampered in many places by Rios' art, and I could see how someone might find that first issue hard to get through. Taken as a whole, and in spite of the art, PRETTY DEADLY is a beautifully written, thought-provoking work of adult fantasy. And even though it's the first collection of an ongoing series, it tells a complete story. The end promises us a Volume Two, but if that never materialized, you'd still have a beautiful beginning, middle, and end right here.

 If you can get past the art (Hell, you may LOVE the art, for all I know!), PRETTY DEADLY, VOLUME ONE: THE SHRIKE comes highly recommended.

 Image Comics provided a review copy.