“If I can’t see the sky, then please let me die.”

prettydeadly01_coverPrAs a woman born, raised, and still living in the west, I am always interested in artistic portrayals of my home region, and I have a soft spot for carrion eaters. The mountains, the desert, the vastness of the valleys and the sky, the intensity of the sun—these are things often rendered imaginatively in the service of some of our more toxic and persistent cultural myths. Not so with this week’s recommendation.

Pretty Deadly, the beautiful and brutal creation of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, artist Emma Ríos, colorist Jordie Bellaire, editor Sigrid Ellis, and letterer Clayton Cowles dwells somewhere in the land of the Old Testament and Cormac McCarthy, but shows us some of the people and some of those stories ignored or wrote into the scenery. The Image Comics title will, thankfully, return with its sixth issue in September 2015. I am recommending the first five issues (also available in trade paperback) and a subscription through your local comic shop.

The story so far centers upon love and death, choices and consequences, retribution and duty, and Bunny and Butterfly. Bunny and Butterfly provide a wonderful frame both plot-wise, and in being our guides to the violence and perplexity present in nature—human nature included. The principle players in the first arc are unforgettable, a heterochromic vulture cloak-wearing girl named Sissy, death’s skull-visaged daughter, the appropriately named Deathface Ginny, and perhaps the bravest character, the completely human Sarah. I won’t reveal all of the characters here because I really want you to purchase and read this comic.

Emma Ríos’ art recalls Yoshitaka Amano, but it is sharper, less ethereal, and swifter. The manner in which she combines undulating, sinuous lines with forceful, heavy directional lines perfectly realizes the story’s tightrope walk between mystical awe and blood-and-dirt violence. When I look at Ríos’ art, sketches included, I always think of blades wrapped in long wing-feathers. Jordie Bellaire’s color palette choices form an indispensable ingredient in the comic as well. Bellaire’s colors augment the intensity of the open sky, fires, and swinging blades, but they also bring the reader to focused stillness, and let us listen to Bunny tell Butterfly the story of death’s daughter.

There is so much more I could say about this jewel of a comic. Instead, I would recommend that you just go get it as soon as you can.

Annie D’Orazio has a nasty head cold, but is so excited about Pretty Deadly that she wrote this recommendation anyway. She just passed her dissertation prospectus defense, and Pretty Deadly was in it! You can follow her on twitter. Just don’t feed her after midnight or put wolfsbane in her flamenco shoes, please.

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