Book Review: Pretty Deadly, Volume 2: The Bear, Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Ríos (2016)

October 26th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Gorgeous artwork & solid storytelling (though not quite as epic as that in The Shrike).

four out of five stars

I am not a bee, but I am small.
I like to see small things win.

There’s never been a war like him before.

The story arc in Pretty Deadly, Volume 2: The Bear isn’t nearly as epic as that in The Shrike, and I prefer the Wild West setting to WWI. But the storytelling is still pretty solid and, as always, the artwork is some of the loveliest I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel.

The Bear takes place several decades after The Shrike, and Sarah Fields – the BAMF gunslinger whose tears gave life to the savior of humanity – lay in bed dying. Who better to reap her than her old flame Fox? But daughter Verine isn’t ready to let Sarah go yet – not until her brother Cyrus returns home to say his final goodbyes. He’s got until the next full moon; can he make it back from the battlefields of France in time?

Meanwhile, Death’s got a lot on her plate. The Reaper of War’s gone rogue, sending ten thousand people her way every. single. day. The cycle of life and death makes the world go ‘round, but this is out of hand! Sissy sends Deathface Ginny and Big Alice to the Western Front to bring an end to the conflict – by any means necessary.

Like I said, the story is engaging, but a bit of a letdown in comparison to Sissy’s origin story in Volume 1. But it was great to see old friends: Sissy, who’s been tending the garden for several decades and is now a young woman; a (slightly) warmer and fuzzier Fox; Sarah, who lived a long and fruitful life, as evidenced by all the people – “whole damn family and half the territory” – who have gathered at her bedside; Johnny Coyote and Molly Raven; and our unflinchingly creepy narrators/observers, bunny and butterfly.

War’s a little trickier: his silly string quality makes a mess of certain panels, such that I sometimes had trouble following the action. Otherwise the art is stellar, as usual. I especially enjoyed reading more about the thought that went into certain scenes in the extras.

The back matter’s pretty shiny, and includes an essay written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (“Dead to Rights,” which originally appeared in Pretty Deadly #1); pin-ups by various artists; and a Q&A between DeConnick and Emma Ríos where they talk process (“Shots Taken,” originally printed in Pretty Deadly #7). Oh, and there’s a fun little story about how Raven freed the moon by Chad Collier (“The Disgrace of the Scoundrels Johnny Coyote and Lady Molly Raven as Seduced by a Beguiling Moon”; originally printed in Pretty Deadly #1 & #2).

(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: Yes! The Fields family is black: there’s matriarch Sarah, the gunslinger we first met in Volume 1, and her son Cyrus, now grown. We also meet her daughter Verine and granddaughter Clara. Gathered outside her home is Sarah’s extended family and half the territory. Nearly all of the faces in the crowd are black or brown.

Sissy, who is arguably Sarah’s daughter as well, has dark skin (along with mismatched eyes: one blue, the other dark).

Deathface Ginny is biracial: her father Death was black and her mother Beauty was white.

We also meet several African-American soldiers serving in WWI, including Carter and Melvin.

Animal-friendly elements: Yes and no. While serving in WWI, Cyrus adopts a stray ray, feeding her scraps of food and rescuing her from a gas attack. We see Johnny Coyote betting on a horse race that ends in tragedy (definitely for the rider, but presumably for the horse as well).

 

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