“It’s the dying that makes the living matter.”
“And the end of the world began when Death fell in love.” So goes the ostensible story-in-a-story detailed in the early pages of graphic novel Pretty Deadly Volume 1: The Shrike. Co-authored by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire, this dynamic work blends myth and fantasy into a fairytale setting in the Old West.
It’s an unusual amalgam that defies quick and dirty description; a sentiment that also applies to its oddball cast of characters. There’s Deathface Ginny, the daughter of Death herself, out for revenge against the man who wronged her mother; Sissy, the heterochromatic girl in the vulture cloak, who finds herself in strange and frightening places; and Bunny, the skeleton of a dead rabbit, who serves as the reader’s narrator.
The story’s themes of love, lust, betrayal, vengeance, and redemption are mainstays in popular fiction, but the ephemeral vibe of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s poetry-prose is deliberate and calculated to showcase the strengths of artist Emma Rios. Rios’s style is characterised by loose brush strokes that vividly recall Japanese paintings of old. This feeling is further emphasised by colourist Jordie Bellaire’s customised palettes for each setting and scene: dark blues, purples and black for Death’s domain, or browns and reds for the dusty Old West.
Taken together, both words and art manifest the best traditions of visual and literary storytelling, as Pretty Deadly takes readers through a surreal coming-of-age tale through life, death, and the very soul of the world. The result is brutal, beautiful, and utterly thrilling.
Words: Yamini Chinnuswamy