Pretty Deadly #4 Spoiler Review

Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire

Pretty Deadly debuted to fairly rapturous reviews, but if there was a common thread I noticed to the criticism of that first issue (and to the second as well, which lacked the benefit of the stark creativity of its predecessor), it was the fact that it was a bit too oblique.  There was a great deal of beauty to its dreamy, fairy tale inspired Western setting, cleverness in the way DeConnick, Rios, and Bellaire used an early precursor of comics storytelling – Cantares de Cego, or romances of the blind – to set up the world.  What some people thought there wasn’t, however, were clear stakes of well-drawn characters worth following.

Pretty Deadly #3 was a groundbreaking issue for the series, tying together the disparate, sometimes confusing mythology of DeConnick’s world and making the stakes snap clearly into focus.  Pretty Deadly #4 continues on in that vein, raising and clarifying the stakes.  But it’s also the most character-centric issue of the series to date.  Until now, Pretty Deadly‘s various characters were pretty well-segregated to their own stories, but this fourth issue shakes things up considerably, giving us new pairings like Johnny Coyote and Sissy or Ginny and Fox.  Even Death gets a brief, surprisingly humanizing scene in the issue.  If Pretty Deadly #3 was geared towards clarifying the plot, then Pretty Deadly #4 does something similar for the characters.  The cast of Pretty Deadly was interesting and superbly designed, but now they feel real in a way they hadn’t previously, and DeConnick has quickly squelched most of the early criticism of the series almost completely.

Emma Rios and colorist Jordie Bellaire are doing career-defining work.  The highlight of this issue is a lengthy fight scene that brings the fight between Fox and Deathface Ginny, brewing since issue one, to life, and it looks fantastic.  I’ve been critical of action sequences in almost every review I’ve written here, because there are really only a handful of creators capable of crafting a truly great one.  It (typically) requires so much physicality, a perfect blend of panel layout and character choreography, a flow that gives you a sense of movement, of speed and power and the relation between figures.  Their duel feels like a duel, small and quick and dirty, each character moving and fighting in a way that highlights who they are and how they operate.  For an issue that’s all about getting into the heads of our cast, I appreciate a fight scene that manages to highlight those same traits.

Pretty Deadly is just flat-out good comics.  Given time, it could easily become great comics. Kelly Sue DeConnick has always been a talented writer, but Pretty Deadly is like nothing else she’s done, and along with excellent work from Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire, she’s making something special here.  Pretty Deadly #4 lacks the gutpunch originality of the series’ debut and the surprising, sure-footed clarity of the third issue, but don’t let that fool you: This is yet another excellent issue of a series you should absolutely be reading.

My Rating: 4.5 / 5

Pretty Deadly #4 preview