Book Review: Pretty Deadly, Volume 1: The Shrike, Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Ríos (2014)

March 18th, 2015 12:09 pm by Kelly Garbato

Yee-hee haw (sung to the tune of “Oh Death”)

five out of five stars

Life ain’t ours to keep, girl. We get to hold some for a little bit, but then we got to pass it on.

What happens when Death gets his heart broken? The world goes to rot, of course. Say what you will about the guy (or gal); Death keeps the cycle of life spinning ’round and ’round. He is a gift, not a curse – for “it’s the dying that makes the living matter.”

And when Death stops doing his job – stops tending the Garden that is the soul of the world – well, it’s time for retirement. But what if the old bugger doesn’t want to go quietly? That’s the story at the heart of Pretty Deadly, Volume 1: The Shrike. And man, is it a doozy.

My love for this comic book? I can’t even begin to count the ways. The artwork is breathtaking; the colors, rich and moody and evocative; the story, enthralling and epic in scope. While it takes a little while for the puzzle pieces to come together (it happens midway through Issue #4), once the plot clarifies, it is legend.

The story is vaguely reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (and the stylized violence has me mentally courting Quentin Tarantino to direct the film adaptation), but featuring a cast jam packed with kickass ladies: Death’s daughter, Ginny, who rides on the wind to mete out vengeance on the blade of her sword; Death’s enforcer Big Alice, she of butterflies and badassery; little Sissy, the adorably creepy girl in the vulture cloak; Beauty, the tragic maiden imprisoned in the mythic tower; and gunslinger Sarah, whose tears called forth the savior of humanity.

Love, death (and Death with a capital D), grief, loss, betrayal, redemption: Pretty Deadly has it all. One part western, two parts grim fantasy, it’s sure to appeal to fans of multiple genres. There’s also a breadth of diversity in the cast: in addition to the many, varied Strong Female Characters, there are a number of people of color, including Death (and presumably his daughter Ginny, though she’s light-skinned like her mother); Sissy; and Sarah and her six sons (we meet two, but only Cyrus is named). And did I mention that Fox is blind?

While the story arc presented in Volume 1 is resolved – resulting in a story that’s complete and satisfying, almost as though it’s a standalone – Volume 2 promises the return of “Deathface Ginny.” I, for one, cannot flipping wait.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)


Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: In addition to a cast of kickass ladies, Pretty Deadly: Volume 1 features several characters of color: Death (and presumably his daughter Ginny, who has her mother’s light skin); Sissy; and Sarah and her six sons (we meet two, but only one – Cyrus – is named). Fox is blind.


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